Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ethel Waters: Sweet Man Blues

Ethel Waters was one of the most popular African-American singers and actresses of the Twenties. She was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1896. Waters attained success of a level that saw her eventually become the highest-paid female entertainer of her day, an unheard of accomplishment for an African-American woman in the early years of the 20th century.

Waters moved to New York in 1919, following several years of touring in vaudeville shows as a singer and a dancer. In 1921, she made her first recordings for Cardinal Records. Later, she switched to the African-American run Black Swan label, and recorded “Down Home Blues” which would be the first blues recording for the label. Waters recorded blues and vaudeville numbers for the label including “Oh Daddy,” “Royal Garden Blues,” “Jazzin’ Baby Blues,” “Sweet Man Blues,” and “Sugar.”

Waters appeared in a number of musical productions and films during the Twenties including, “Check and Double Check,” featuring Amos and Andy and Duke Ellington. By the end of the Thirties, she was a big star on Broadway.

In 1949, Waters received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for the film, “Pinky.” Waters died in 1977. A series of compilations called, “The Chronological Classics” are the best sources of her classic recordings.
Ethel Waters in 1940