Lonesome Blues

Lonesome Blues
1918 - Words & Music by Perry Bradford


Perry Bradford was an important black songwriter who used southern folk material in his compositions. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1895 and spent his youth in Atlanta after his family moved there in 1902. The Bradfords initially lived in a house next to the Fulton Street Jail. In the evening, the black inmates would pass the time singing blues and other folk songs. This was where a young Perry Bradford first heard the music that would soon become his livelihood. Bradford joined Allen's New Orleans Minstrels in 1907 but soon left to work as a solo pianist. He performed in Chicago and visited New York City in 1910.


Around 1918, Perry Bradford settled in New York where he began to pitch his songs to the many music publishers located there. In 1920, he became the first show business entrepreneur to talk a record company into recording a blues composition by a black female vocalist backed up by a black band. Bradford argued to the record companies that "fourteen million Negroes will buy records if recorded by one of their own." In 1920, his song Crazy Blues, recorded by Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds, proved to be an unprecedented success. It sold about 75,000 copies in the first month after its release and surpassed the 200,000 mark during its first year in the record stores.


Bradford was not only a musician and songwriter but had his own publishing company and led recording bands featuring Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dunn and James P Johnson. He was also involved with numerous black musical productions in the Twenties. He was also instrumental in finding spots on commercial radio for black performers. His autobiography Born With The Blues was published in 1965. Bradford died in Queens in 1970. Lyrics to "Lonesome Blues" written by Perry Bradford in 1918.


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