'St. Louis Blues' Margaret Howze reports on the song's background and its definitive 1925 recording by Bessie Smith.
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'St. Louis Blues'

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'St. Louis Blues'

'St. Louis Blues'

'St. Louis Blues'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1069234/18712551" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

NPR 100 Fact Sheet

Title: The St. Loius Blues

Artist: Words/music W.C. Handy

As performed by Bessie Smith

Reporter: Margaret Howze

Producer:

Editor:

Length: 15:30

Interviewees: Elliot Hurwitt, musicologist

Edwina Handy Da Costa, great granddaughter

Odetta, Singer

Recordings Used: St. Louis Blues

American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935. Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

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Three Lions/Getty Images

American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935.

Three Lions/Getty Images

In 1914, W.C. Handy, a middle-class African American, wrote "St. Louis Blues." It came at a time when Tin Pan Alley's popular songs began to fuse with folklore to explore the blues, the form that led to the full-fledged birth of American jazz.

NPR's Margaret Howze reports on the song's background and its definitive 1925 recording by Bessie Smith, with cornet accompaniment by Louis Armstrong.