George W. Johnson: Forgotten Black Recording Pioneer

Posted: January 26, 2012 in George W. Johnson, Jas Obrecht, Pre Blues

Author: Jas Obrecht




“Today, most music fans have never heard of George W. Johnson. Asked to name the first black singing star, even knowledgeable collectors will typically cite Bert Williams, the 1910s Broadway star, or Mamie Smith, the diva who kicked off the 1920s blues craze with “Crazy Blues.” But Johnson was making and selling tens of thousands of records – cylinders, mostly – three decades before Miss Smith conjured her magic, making him the direct forerunner of Bert Williams, Sammy Davis, Jr., Michael Jackson, and other performers who’ve come to be known as “superstars.”

In Johnson’s bio, tragedy trumps triumph. Born a slave on a Virginia plantation, he was forced to work within long-standing racist stereotypes, and spent most of his career singing the same song over and over and over again.”




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