NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trixie Smith Helped Give Us The Term Rock And Roll

Document Records

The surname Smith has deep roots in the Blues with Bessie, Mamie, and Clara being the best known. Trixie Smith should be just as well known.

And she should be known for more than just her recording “My Daddy Rocks Me” which gave us the term Rock and Roll.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1895 and while many Blues artists of the early days came from poor backgrounds, Trixie was from a middle class family. She graduated from Selma University in Alabama before she moved to New York in 1915 to pursue a career in minstrel shows and the vaudeville circuit.

In 1922, Smith first recorded for the Black Swan record label. Harlem, New York, based Black Swan is historic for being America’s first really successful African-American owned label recording for and marketing to African-American audiences. It had been preceded by the far less than successful Broome Special Phonograph Records.

Among the few sides that Trixie had issued on Black Swan was the J. Berni Barbour composition “My Daddy Rocks Me” which included the hook line “My daddy rocks me with a steady roll,” which historians credit as the inspiration for the term “Rock and Roll.”

Soon after the sides’ release Lil Johnson put out "Rock That Thing" and "Rock Me Mama" by Ikey Robinson was also released. None of these songs could have been issued on ‘white’ record labels of the 1920s, so called ‘race records’ had vastly different standards though.

Among Trixie Smith’s recordings of the 1920s were two songs that featured Louis Armstrong on Coronet. After leaving Black Swan she recorded with Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra for Paramount Records. From the end of the 1920s until the late 1930s Trixie did not record, but made her career on the Broadway stage and in four films; God's Step Children (1938), Swing! (1938), Drums o' Voodoo (1934), and The Black King (1932).

Her recording career was reignited in 1938 after she appeared at John H. Hammond's famous and historically important "From Spirituals to Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall. In the late 1930s and early 1940s Trixie recorded and performed variously with Sidney Bechet, Red Allen and Barney Bigard.

Without much doubt Trixie Smith would have been far better remembered had she not passed away at the age of 48 in 1943.

Tune in to hear the historically significant Trixie Smith recording “My Daddy Rocks Me” this week on The Nine O’clock Blues.

Related Content