A Life in Jazz pp 178-187 | Cite as

California, New Orleans and the Capitol sides

  • Danny Barker


Lu was great, a great singer. Not a shouter. There are different kinds of singers. Like in the case of the Smith sisters. Any black woman with the last name Smith, especially if she was big, fat and Baptist, could automatically sing the blues. So you had thirty or forty women named Smith touring the country with medicine shows and circus side shows, singing the Crazy Blues and Give me a pigfoot and a bottle of beer. Bessie Smith was a shouter: she would scream, holler! Primitive. Old feelings about “When her man done her wrong …” or “Once I lived a life of a millionaire …” That kind of thing. Highly dramatic. Mamie Smith was as big as her—bigger than her at one time. And she was a sweet, sweet singer. So there were these various types. Nowadays you see all these singers—Patti Labelle and all—they’re what you call shouters, screamers: they scream to the high heavens. Wonderful pipes.


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© Danny Barker 1986

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  • Danny Barker

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