Big Maybelle was a top selling performer from the Golden Age of R&B, who could interpret rousing carousing dance music, and bring it all back down with a tender haunting ballad.
Born Maybelle Louis Smith in Jackson, Tennessee, she grew up singing in the local Sanctified Church choir in Jackson. Full-figured and commanding, Big Maybelle sang the blues with controlled abandon and a flair for style. In 1932, she won first prize at the Cotton Carnival singing cabaret in Memphis, then toured with an all girl band called the Sweethearts of Rhythm. They played dances from Mississippi to Indiana.
From 1936 to 1940, she toured with the Christine Chatman Orchestra and in 1944 she recorded with Christine on the Decca Label. During the 1950s, Maybelle sang with The Quincy Jones Orchestra, the Kelly Owens Orchestra, and the Danny Mendelsohn Orchestra.