Although she had a very robust voice, she was nevertheless capable of conveying great depths of emotion, and this distinguished her from most of her contemporaries, who lacked her control of the nuances of singing. She also borrowed a lot of techniques from early jazz instrumentalists, such as growls and smears, and the process worked in reverse as well, her empathy with Louis Armstrong, and their trading of phrases on many of her records being a particular high point in her recorded catalogue. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she started her career in a touring tent show in , alongside another early blues specialist, Ma Rainey. For a decade she toured in minstrel shows, in medicine shows and on the African American TOBA theatre circuit, before she made her first record Downhearted Blues in
Bessie Smith began to sing at a young age and in signed a contract with Columbia Records. Soon she was among the highest-paid black performers of her time with hits like "Downhearted Blues. Smith was born on April 15, , in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She was one of seven children. Her father, a Baptist minister, died soon after her birth, leaving her mother to raise her and her siblings. Around her mother and two of her brothers died and Smith and her remaining siblings were raised by their aunt. It was around this time that Smith began to perform as a street singer, accompanied on the guitar by one of her younger brothers. In Smith began performing as a dancer in the Moses Stokes minstrel show, and soon thereafter in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, of which blues vocalist Ma Rainey was a member. Rainey took Smith under her wing, and over the next decade, Smith continued to perform at various theaters and on the vaudeville circuit.
Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues , she was the most popular female blues singer of the s and s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists. The census indicates that her family reported that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee , in July The and censuses report three older half-siblings, but later interviews with Smith's family and contemporaries contain no mention of them against her siblings. She was the daughter of Laura born Snow and William Urie, a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher he was listed in the census as a "minister of the gospel ," in Moulton, Lawrence County, Alabama. He died while his daughter was too young to remember him. By the time Bessie was nine, her mother and a brother had also died.
Bessie Smith , in full Elizabeth Smith , born April 15, ? She was known for her rich contralto voice and her breathtaking emotional intensity. Smith grew up in poverty and obscurity. She may have made a first public appearance at the age of eight or nine at the Ivory Theatre in her hometown. About she toured in a show with Ma Rainey , one of the first of the great blues singers, from whom she received some training.