"Diamond Teeth" Mary

Dublin Core

Title

"Diamond Teeth" Mary

Alternative Title

"Diamond Teeth" Mary

Subject

McClain, Mary Smith
Bradenton (Fla.)
Concerts
Music--Florida
Blues (Music)--Florida
Gospel music--Florida
Vaudeville--Florida

Description

"Diamond Teeth" Mary McClain (born Mary Smith), an African-American blues, gospel, and vaudeville singer who performed from the 1910s through the 1990s. "Diamond Teeth" Mary was the half-sister of blues legend, Bessie Smith, and was present at her death following an automobile accident. Performing in various minstrel shows through the 1920s and 1930s, she was known as "Walking Mary" until the 1940s. She had diamonds removed from a bracelet and set into her front teeth, giving her famous moniker, but eventually removed them to pay for her mother's medical bills. Often promoted as "Queen of the Blues," she performed with some of the biggest names in African-American music, including Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Nat 'King' Cole, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington.

"Diamond Teeth" Mary moved to Bradenton, Florida, in 1960, where she began performing gospel music, rather than secular blues, and remained there until her death in April 2000. She was given national exposure in the late 1970s, when Steven Zeitlin of the Smithsonian Institution tracked her down and convinced her to perform at the American Folklife Festival. She performed for President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1980, appeared in an off-Broadway production in 1981, became one of the first recipients of the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1986, recorded her first album, If I Can't Sell It, I'm Gonna Sit On It, in 1993, and continued to perform at blues festivals in the United States and Europe until her death at age 97. A play about her life premiered at the Florida Folk Festival in 2000.

Source

Original color photograph: Profiles: Bands & Artists, Tampa Bay Music Scene Historical Society.
Original black and white photographs: Profiles: Bands & Artists, Tampa Bay Music Scene Historical Society.

Date Created

ca. 1960-2000

Has Format

Digital reproduction of original color photograph. http://www.tampabaymusichistory.com/resources/34564.jpg.
Digital reproduction of original black and white photograph. http://www.tampabaymusichistory.com/resources/DiamondTeethMary.jpg.
Digital reproduction of original black and white photograph. http://www.tampabaymusichistory.com/resources/35464352.jpeg.

Is Format Of

Digital reproduction of original color photograph: Profiles: Bands & Artists, Tampa Bay Music Scene Historical Society.
Original black and white photographs: Profiles: Bands & Artists, Tampa Bay Music Scene Historical Society.

Is Part Of

Profiles: Bands & Artists, Tampa Bay Music Scene Historical Society.
Blues Collection, Central Florida Music History Collection, RICHES of Central Florida.

Format

image/jpg

Extent

140 KB
77.5 KB
33.5 KB

Medium

1 color photograph
2 black and white photographs

Language

eng

Type

Still Image

Coverage

Bradenton, Florida

Accrual Method

Donation

Mediator

History Teacher
Humanities Teacher
Music Teacher

Provenance

Rights Holder

Copyright to this resource is held by Tampa Bay Music Scene Historical Society and is provided here by RICHES of Central Florida for educational purposes only.

Curator

Cravero, Geoffrey

Digital Collection

External Reference

Cohn, Lawrence (ed.) "Mary 'Diamond Teeth' McClain. Nothing but the Blues: The Music and the Musicians. New York: Abbeville Press, 1993
""Diamond Teeth" Mary". TampaBayMusicHistory.com. http://www.tampabaymusichistory.com/diamond-teeth-mary.php.

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

1 color photograph
2 black and white photographs

Locations

Categories