Interesting ad in the NAACP's *The Crisis* magazine in January 1923

Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

July 17th, 2018, 3:10 pm #11

alexander revell wrote: A pedantic point, but I stand corrected. Lesson, don't post in haste without checking  esoteric details. But the point attempted, the overall, large  sales of records by black artists still stands. If that dealer's condition was met he would have been cutting off his nose to spite his face.  
While you're there, Ralph, there's the small detail of an unanswered email.:-)
Alex
Pedantic point ???
In this case, six months isn't a short time-span at all!
Compared to the best selling discs by the most popular white orchestras of the time (e.g. Ted Lewis, Paul Whiteman), the sales figures of even Bert Williams, Mamie Smith or Bessie Smith records pale by comparison. Just consult the data on the Columbia file cards ...

Private E-Mail coming today, Alex ...
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Joined: March 16th, 2018, 10:44 am

July 18th, 2018, 9:36 am #12

Yes, but you're not comparing like with like. Why would  the black community purchase records by bands whose only, tenuous connection with jazz - their music -  was a few jazz white musicians in their personnel.
As to the selling of Bessie Smith records. Chris Albertson, in his book Bessie, says:'The of-told story that Bessie saved Columbia from bankruptcy is an overstatement and is unfair to such Columbia artists as Eddie Cantor, Ted Lewis, comedian Bert Williams (who died eight years after Bessie's recording debut) and the  outrageously racist but popular comedy team know as the Two Black Crows whose records also sold extremely well. (foot note re.The Two black Crows:  Predecessors of Amos and Andy, the Two Black Crows (Moran and Mack) were actually Irish)
Nevertheless, Bessie was Columbia's hottest artist at the time, and her contribution to the company's welfare was invaluable.'
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Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

July 18th, 2018, 2:23 pm #13

QUOTE:
"Why would  the black community purchase records by bands whose only, tenuous connection with jazz - their music -  was a few jazz white musicians in their personnel."
END QUOTE

ANSWER:
Because the black community would generally not have been able to tell if the (sometimes wrongly-credited) performers they heard on a certain (Black Swan) record were black, or white.
Proof for this is the fact that Pace got away with his practice of presenting white dance bands as being race artists for nearly the entire life-span of his Black Swan label.

As for you citing a secondary source, namely Albertson's Bessie Smith book ("...Bessie was Columbia's hottest artist at the time..."), I don't care about this much - I prefer to consult PRIMARY sources, like in this case the Columbia file cards. These give actual sales figures for certain Columbia issues, which prove for instance that Ted Lewis outsold Bessie Smith by a wide margin (simply no contest).

Another factual error in your Albertson citation:
Bert Williams did NOT die eight days (you wrongly cited eight years) after Bessie's recording debut - it was 349 days BEFORE Bessie's recording debut [1922-03-04 vs 1923-02-16]. Albertson's book is, by far, not the most reliable source for Bessie Smith related data ...

Ralph
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Joined: March 24th, 2018, 11:32 pm

July 18th, 2018, 2:47 pm #14

I checked out the YouTube posting of Florence Cole Talbert's version of the "Bell Song" from Delibes' Lakmé and an earlier (1919) recording she made of dell'Acqua's "Villanelle." She was quite good and certainly would have had a major opera career in the U.S. if she hadn't had to deal with racism. According to her Wikipedia page, she was also the voice teacher of Marian Anderson, the singer who finally broke the color bar at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955.
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Joined: March 24th, 2018, 11:32 pm

July 18th, 2018, 3:18 pm #15

RE the connection between Black Swan Records and Bessie Smith: Bessie actually auditioned for Black Swan before she signed with Columbia, but W. C. Handy and Harry Pace turned her down as "too rough." (This may explain why when Bessie finally got a recording contract, she made only two records of Handy's songs.) Forty years later, Berry Gordy of Motown -- another Black record-label owner who was going after a "respectable" image and aimed his pop-soul recordings at both Black and white audiences -- turned down Aretha Franklin with the same words: "Too rough."
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Joined: March 16th, 2018, 10:44 am

July 18th, 2018, 3:38 pm #16

Ralph, I just answered your last, but it didn't go off. When I reboot into the site the last post is mine of yesterday, even your last has gone into the ether or wherever. I lack the energy to type it again. 
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Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

July 18th, 2018, 9:58 pm #17

sorry to hear that, Alex - but you've received my private email of 29 hours ago, I hope ???
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