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In 1920, Cincinnati, Ohio's Mamie Smith cut Perry Bradford's "Crazy Blues" for OKeh Records in New York City, marking the first recording of America's previously undocumented blues music form. Smith wasn't a true blues woman; her forte was cabaret and vaudeville. But like many black female artists that would follow her, Smith easily made the transition, adding the necessary "bluesy feel" to the record. The success of "Crazy Blues" was astounding. It reputedly sold hundreds of thousands of units, proving that there was indeed a market for African-American or "race" recordings. Smith and "Crazy Blues" also opened the door for dozens of other great female blues artists, allowing Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox and Clara Smith to record, and prompting historians to dub the 1920s the "classic" blues era.

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