Lincoln Memorial Park Clinton Township, Macomb County, Michigan, USA
Clara Smith (c. 1894 – February 2, 1935) was an American classic female blues singer. She was billed as the "Queen of the Moaners", even though she had a lighter and sweeter voice than many of her contemporaries. She was not related to the singers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith. Among the better known of Josephine Baker's lesbian lovers were Clara Smith, a black blues singer who secured Baker her first job as a chorus girl.
With her recording of such songs as "Awful Moaning Blues" in 1923, Clara Smith became known as "Queen of the Moaners' and among female blues singers of the era was second in prominence only to Bessie Smith.
Clara Smith was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1894. She began singing and playing piano on the vaudeville circuit as an adolescent. At 24, she was an headliner for the Theater Owners Booking Agency (TOBA), starring in shows in New Orleans and Nashville. While souring the South in 1920, she met Josephine Baker, whom she befriended and helped start her performing career.
In 1923, Smith moved to New York City, and like Bessie Smith, obtained a contract recording for Columbia Records until 1932. She made approximately 40 records for the label, including "Every Woman Blues" and "So Long Jim", both in 1923; and "Mean Papa Turn in Your Key" along with "Texas Moaner Blues," in 1924. In 1925, she shared the spotlight with Bessie Smith on three comic duets: "My Man Blues", "Far Away Blues" and "I'm Going Back to My Used To Be." She recorded often to the accompainment of stride piano player James P. Johnson, cornetist Louis Armstrong, pianist Fletcher Henderson, and many others. Smith also reportedly recorded at least one song for Okeh Records under the name Violet Green.
Smith headlined at the Lafayette Theatre in 1925. In 1927, her self-produced Black Bottom Revue and Clam Smith Revue, both played at the Lincoln Theatre. She returned in 1928 to the Lafayette in the Swaney Club Revue, segments of which were also broadcast over radio. She played an extended engagement from 1928 to 1929 as part of the revue for female impersonator "Ophelia Snow from Baltimo." From 1929 to 1931, she performed a series of engagements at the Alhambra Theatre, including the shows Dream Girls Revs, Candied Sweet Reveu, The Hello Revue, The Here We Are Revue; The Dusty Lane Revue; and the January Jubilee Reveu.
Smith further performed in 1931 in an all-black western musical called Trouble on the Ranch at the Standard Theatre in Philadelphia. In 1933, she starred in the Harlem Madness Revue at the Harlem Fifth Avenue Theatre.
Smith married Charles Wesley in 1926. She and Bessie Smith were friends as well as peers and known sometimes to engage in violent confrontations in public.
Smith died of heart disease on February 2, 1935, in Detroit, Michigan.
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