Vanita Smythe

Last updated
Vanita Smythe
Birth nameVannie Smith
Also known asVanita Smythe Pauling
Born(1925-01-13)January 13, 1925
Detroit, Michigan, United States
DiedJanuary 18, 1994(1994-01-18) (aged 69)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Genres Blues, jazz
Occupation(s) Singer and actress
Years active19451950
Labels Regal Records

Vannie Smith, known professionally as Vanita Smythe (January 13, 1925 – January 18, 1994) [1] was an American blues and jazz singer and actress. She was professionally active between 1945 and 1950, making eight soundies, two motion pictures and releasing a couple of singles. [2]

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, spirituals, and the folk music of white Americans of European heritage. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds or fifths flattened in pitch, are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Soundies were three-minute American musical 16mm films, produced in New York City, Chicago, and Hollywood, between 1940 and 1946, each containing a song, dance and/or band or orchestral number.


Life and career

Vannie Smith was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States. [2] The third of eight children, her parents were Grady and Gertrude McCray Smith, and she was named after her maternal grandmother, Lou Vannie Donaldson. [2]

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest United States city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

Michigan State of the United States of America

Michigan is a state in the Great Lakes and Midwestern regions of the United States. The state's name, Michigan, originates from the Ojibwe word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake". With a population of about 10 million, Michigan is the tenth most populous of the 50 United States, with the 11th most extensive total area, and is the largest state by total area east of the Mississippi River. Its capital is Lansing, and its largest city is Detroit. Metro Detroit is among the nation's most populous and largest metropolitan economies.

In a professional capacity she was first mentioned in the Indianapolis Recorder in August 1945, named as Vannie Smith and being the star of Billy Williams' Creole Follies, a week-long show at the 440 Club. However, the following month she appeared billed as Vanita Smythe at the Cotton Club in Buffalo, New York. She came to the attention of the fledgling film director, William Forest Crouch, [3] who produced and directed soundies through Filmcraft Productions in New York. Between January and May 1946, Smythe was filmed in eight of them. Several of the soundies also featured the pianist and songwriter Dan Burley or fellow songwriter Claude Demetrius. Smythe's roles varied, incorporating some acting and singing, and several of the songs within the soundies were written by notables such as Louis Jordan, Hot Lips Page, Burley and Demetrius. [2] The following year, Smythe's filmed rendition of "They Raided the Joint" was integrated into Ebony Parade, [3] an Astor Pictures film that opened in New York in early July. The film was a collection of old soundies, each introduced by the "fortune teller", Mantan Moreland. Through these connections, Smythe was cast as "Rusty", in Louis Jordan's 1947 Astor Pictures film, Reet, Petite, and Gone , which was also produced and directed by Crouch. [2]

The Indianapolis Recorder is an American weekly newspaper, which began publishing in 1895. It is the longest-published African-American paper in Indiana and the nation's fourth-oldest-surviving African-American newspaper. The newspaper's primary readership is African-American.

Buffalo, New York City in Western New York

Buffalo is the second largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the largest city in Western New York. As of July 2016, the population was 256,902. The city is the county seat of Erie County and a major gateway for commerce and travel across the Canada–United States border, forming part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.

William Forest Crouch was an American director and writer of film, mostly shorts, best remembered for Reet, Petite, and Gone (1947) and its all-African-American cast. He was active during the 1940s.

In April 1947, Smythe performed at Henry Armstrong's Melody Room in Harlem on the same bill as the 5 Kings. In June she trod the boards again at Smalls Paradise in Harlem, in a one-night show put on by Dan Burley. In October, she appeared as part of the annual benefit dance put on by the Good Hearts Welfare Association at Harlem's Renaissance Ballroom. Smythe's career went into a hiatus before signing in March 1950 to Regal Records. [2] She recorded four tracks for the label; "Lonesome For You", "I Want My Baby Back", "Until I Fell For You" (written by Howard Biggs), [4] and "You Got Me Crying Again". "Lonesome For You" / "I Want My Baby Back" was issued as a single early in 1950, whilst "Until I Fell For You" / "You Got Me Crying Again" was released later the same year. Neither record was a commercial success. The sum total of her stage performances did not run into double figures, and all of them took place around New York City. Smythe married in 1951 and her professional career came to a close. [2]

Harlem Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

Harlem is a neighborhood in the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is bounded roughly by Frederick Douglass Boulevard, St. Nicholas Avenue, and Morningside Park on the west; the Harlem River and 155th Street on the north; Fifth Avenue on the east; and Central Park North on the south. It is part of greater Harlem, an area that encompasses several other neighborhoods and extends west to the Hudson River, north to 155th Street, east to the East River, and south to 96th Street.

Smalls Paradise former nightclub in Harlem, New York City

Smalls Paradise, was a nightclub in Harlem, New York City. Located in the basement of 2294 Seventh Avenue, it opened in 1925 and was owned by Ed Smalls. At the time of the Harlem Renaissance, Smalls Paradise was the only one of the well-known Harlem night clubs to be owned by an African-American and integrated. Other major Harlem night clubs admitted only white patrons unless the person was an African-American celebrity.

Regal Records (1949) American record label; founded in 1949 in Linden, New Jersey

Regal Records was an American record label that issued popular music and jazz in the years after World War II. The label's headquarters were in Linden, New Jersey. This label was founded by David and Jules Braun, the founders of De Luxe Records, in 1949; it has no relation to the British, Spanish, or American versions from the 1920s. In the United States, there were also short-lived labels by this name based in California (1947–1949) and Michigan (1947), but these are unrelated to the Linden organization. This label also issued R&B and gospel music. A subsidiary called Tots and Teens issued children's records.

Vanita Smythe Pauling died in Detroit on January 18, 1994, aged 69. [1] [2]

Family life

On March 23, 1951, Smythe married Clarence Otto Pauling in Springfield, Tennessee. The groom was the brother of Lowman "Pete" Pauling, Jr. of the "5" Royales. Clarence and Vanita were later divorced, on a date probably between 1960 and 1966. There is no definitive record of any children of the union. [2]

Springfield, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Springfield is a city in and the county seat of Robertson County, which is located in Middle Tennessee on the northern border of the state. The population was 16,478 at the 2010 census and 16,809 in 2016.

The "5" Royales was an American rhythm and blues (R&B) vocal group from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States, that combined gospel, jump blues and doo-wop, marking an early and influential step in the evolution of rock and roll. Most of their big R&B hits were recorded in 1952 and 1953 and written by the guitarist Lowman "Pete" Pauling. Cover versions of the band's songs hit the Top 40, including "Dedicated to the One I Love", "Tell the Truth", and "Think". Brown modeled his first vocal group after the "5" Royales, and both Eric Clapton and the legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper cited Pauling as a key influence. The Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger covered "Think" on his 1993 solo album Wandering Spirit. The "5" Royales were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.





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  1. 1 2 Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California, United States: Praeger Publishers. p. 83. ISBN   978-0313344237.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks - VANITA SMYTHE". Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  3. 1 2 "Wild Realm Reviews: Vanita Smythe soundies". Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  4. Scott Yanow. "Yes Indeed! Women Vocalists on United - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic . Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  5. "Vanita Smythe - Until I Fell For You / You Got Me Crying Again (Shellac)". Retrieved 2016-10-30.