Bradford, Perry (John Henry) (Mule)

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Bradford, Perry (John Henry) (Mule)

Bradford, Perry (John Henry) (Mule), pioneering jazz leader, composer, pianist; b. Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 14, 1893; d. Queens, N.Y., April 20, 1970. Family moved to Atlanta, Ga., when Perry was six. By 1906 he was working with minstrel shows; he joined Allen’s New Orleans Minstrels in 1907. He left to work as a solo pianist, and played in Chicago (1909). In 1910, he visited N.Y., and toured theatre circuits for several years, as a soloist and in double acts; he also began prolific composing. He settled in N.Y., and became musical director for Mamie Smith; Bradford was responsible for Mamie’s recording debut—generally accepted as the first recording featuring an African-American blues singer. Mamie’s 1921 recording of Bradford’s composition “Crazy Blues” sold over a million copies. He toured with Mamie Smith during the early 1920s, and also led own recording bands featuring Louis Armstrong, Buster Bailey, Johnny Dunn, James P. Johnson, and others. He ran his own publishing company in N.Y., and also pioneered the use of African American performers on commercial radio. Bradford composed many big-selling numbers, including “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” “Evil Blues,” and “That Thing Called Love.”

Discography

“Stomp Off,” “Static Strut” (both 1926); P.B. Story (1957).

Bibliography

P. Bradford, Born with the Blues (1965).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter