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Clara Smith

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Biography

One of the legendary unrelated Smith singers of the 1920s, Clara Smith was never on Bessie's level or as significant as Mamie but she had something of her own to offer. She began working on the theatre circuit and in vaudeville around 1910, learning her craft during the next 13 years while traveling throughout the South. In 1923 Clara Smith came to New York and she recorded steadily for Columbia through 1932, cutting 122 songs often with the backing of top musicians (especially after 1925) including Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Freddy Jenkins and James P. Johnson (in 1929). Plus she recorded two vocal duets with Bessie Smith and four with Lonnie Johnson. She was billed as the "Queen of the Moaners" although Smith actually had a lighter and sweeter voice than her contemporaries and main competitors. She performed throughout the country (even appearing on the West Coast during 1924-25) and in Harlem revues during her prime years. Clara Smith was active until shortly before her death in 1935 from heart failure at the age of 40.

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