Monthly Archives: May 2010

George W. Johnson: Pioneering Black Recording Artist

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.” Continue reading