Perry Bradford

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Although he lived until 1970, Perry Bradford's main importance to music was during the first half of the 1920s. He grew up in Atlanta (where his family moved when he was six) and in 1906 started working…
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Although he lived until 1970, Perry Bradford's main importance to music was during the first half of the 1920s. He grew up in Atlanta (where his family moved when he was six) and in 1906 started working with minstrel shows. He played in Chicago as a solo pianist as early as 1909 and visited New York the following year. As a pianist, singer, and composer, Bradford worked in theater circuits for the next decade. After settling in New York, he became Mamie Smith's musical director and was responsible for her being the first blues singer to appear on record (singing his "Crazy Blues" in 1920). Bradford toured and recorded with Smith, worked with Alberta Hunter, and also headed seven recording sessions of his own during 1923-1927; among his sidemen were Johnny Dunn, Bubber Miley, Garvin Bushell, Louis Armstrong (on two numbers in 1925), Buster Bailey, and James P. Johnson. With the rise of the Depression, Bradford (who was a spirited if limited singer) slipped away into obscurity. In later years, he appeared to some to be a bit of a braggart although that was probably a reaction to him being completely forgotten. In 1965 Perry Bradford's autobiography Alone with the Blues was published. His best-known songs were "Crazy Blues," "That Thing Called Love," and "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down."