Bessie Smith, known as the “Empress of the Blues” was born in Chattanooga sometime between 1894-1900.
She was discovered by Ma Rainey and became a hit on the vaudeville circuit. Her first recording ” Downhearted Blues” was released in 1924 and, without special promotion, sold two million copies by the end of the first year.
She toured the country singing for sold out crowds and was the highest paid black performer in her day. She recorded more than 160 songs, the last in 1933. She appeared in a movie “The St. Louis Blues”.
She died as a result of injuries received in a car wreck near Clarksburg, Mississippi in 1937.