Bessie Smith was born in 1894 on Chattanooga, Tennesse. She began singing at the age of nine on the street corners and in 1912 joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels traveling show led by the legendary blues singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, to whom Bessie would become a protégé.
After performing in saloons and small theaters throughout the south, Bessie signed with Columbia Records and scored a major hit with the records "Down Hearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues". Her more than 150 recordings that followed, some of which sold 100,000 copies in a week, propelled her to fame and immortality. She toured regularly in 1920s, particularly in vaudeville, often with such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Fletcher "Smack" Henderson, James P. Johnson, and Benny Goodman.
As well as singing Bessie, with her tall, upright, and strikingly beautiful features, was effective at acting, appearing in the 1929 motion picture short St. Louis Blues. It was unfortunate that at this time her career fell into a sharp decline. This was mostly the result of changing trends in music, however, Bessie's long-standing alcoholism played its part as as record producers found her very difficult to work with. Bessie Smith was in the process of a comeback at the time of her tragic death at age of forty three. On Sept. 26, 1937, she was critically injured while on her way to a singing engagement, when the car being driven by her boyfriend crashed into a truck on a road in Mississippi. MP3: Lost Your Head Blues