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Marion Harris

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Marion Harris (April 4 1896 — April 23, 1944) was an American popular singer, most successful in the 1920’s. She was the first widely known white singer to sing jazz and blues songs.

Born Mary Ellen Harrison, probably in Indiana, she first played vaudeville and movie theaters in Chicago around 1914. Dancer Vernon Castle introduced her to the theater community in New York where she debuted in a 1915 Irving Berlin revue, Stop! Look! Listen!

In 1916, she began recording for Victor Records, singing a variety of songs, such as “Everybody’s Crazy ‘bout the Doggone Blues, But I’m Happy”, “After You’ve Gone”, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (later recorded by Bessie Smith) and her biggest success, “I Ain’t Got Nobody”. In July of 1917 she recorded “When I Hear That Jazz Band Play” which can be considered the first rendition of a jazz song that was recorded by a woman or at least the first song recorded by a woman that included “Jazz” in the title. To the general public she must have seemed the epitome of a flapper with her blonde bobbed hair and Jazz themed songs such as “Jazz Baby”, Take Me to the Land of Jazz” and “I’m A Jazz Vampire”.

In 1918 she appeared in the Broadway musical “Listen Lester” at the Knickerbocker Theatre.
In 1920, after the Victor label would not allow her to record W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”, she joined Columbia Records where she recorded the song successfully. Sometimes billed as “The Queen of the Blues,”she tended to record blues- or jazz-flavored tunes throughout her career.

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