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Perry BradfordPerry Bradford (February 14, 1893 – April 20, 1970) was a singer, songwriter, pianist and vaudeville and minstrel performer who forever changed the sound of American popular music by convincing Okeh Records to release the first Blues record in 1920.

Bradford was sure that there was a market for African-American music aimed at African-American consumers. He had a hard time convincing the record companies in New York of this, but he kept at it and managed to get Okeh records interested in the idea in 1920. He felt that singer Mamie Smith a star of the musical revue Maid of Harlem had the right stuff to reach the African-American audience. Their first try was a couple of Perry Bradford pop songs with a slight Jazz and Blues feel “That Thing Called Love” and “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down“. It sold well enough that Okeh was willing to be a little more adventurous and record some real contemporary African-American music on their next release.

Perry Bradford Jeanette TaylorThe songs were “Crazy Blues“, and “It’ s Right Here for You” but this time Okeh played up that fact that this was an African-American singer and band in their advertising and sheet music sales that accompanied the record. The record was a smash hit and some say it ended up selling over a million copies.

After the success of this record almost all other record companies then jumped on the band wagon and started recording African-American Blues and Jazz musicians. Bradford led several sessions in the 1920s that featured Jazz luminaries such as Louis ArmstrongJames P. JohnsonJohnny Dunn, and Alberta Hunter. Strangely enough, Bradford was also an influence on rock music. Rock n’ Roll musician Little Richard (who had a big hit with Bradford’s song “Keep A Knockin'” in 1957) had this to say about him, “Everything happens for a reason. Who knew that the style Perry was developing in the Twenties would lead to Rock and Roll.”

Further Reading:

In 1920 Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues paved the way for Black Music

Perry Bradford, Fred Hager, and Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues

band or session leader

Perry Bradford and his GangPerry Bradford’s Jazz Phools
The Gulf Coast SevenGeorgia Strutters
Howell, Horsley And Bradford

Born With The Blues, by Perry Bradford, Oak Publications, 1965


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