Early Okeh Race Record Advertisments (1921–1925)

(Top to bottom) August 1923, July 1921, and June 1925. Okeh claims the dubious distinction of having been the first label to segregate records by black artists, in the spring of 1921. Numbered in the 8000s, they were advertised as “Race Records,” a term that was soon picked up by other labels. The Norfolk Jazz Quartet (which also recorded spirituals as the Norfolk Jubilee Four) were sufficiently popular with white buyers that Okeh continued to release their records in the 4000 standard catalog series until late 1921.



Okeh Race Records Ad: Clarence Williams, Sara Martin, Mamie Smith (1923)

This Okeh race record ad dates to August 1923. Clarence Williams, besides being exclusive to Okeh at the time, also served as the race series’ first talent scout and A&R manager. The performers pictured and mentioned were all New York–based; Okeh made its first Chicago recordings just two months earlier, and was readying them for release when this ad appeared.


Sunday’s Playlist (March 24) • Alberta Hunter in the 1920s


ALBERTA HUNTER, as JOSEPHINE BEATTY (with Red Onion Jazz Babies, Louis Armstrong, cornet): Texas Moaner Blues

New York: November 8, 1924
Silvertone 4033  (Gennett mx. 9176-A)


ALBERTA HUNTER (with Clarence Williams, piano): You for Me, Me for You

New York: August 11, 1926
Okeh 8365  (mx. O-E 74253-A)


ALBERTA HUNTER (with unknown piano and guitar): Gimme All the Love You Got

New York: July 18, 1929
Columbia 14450-D  (mx. W 148822-2)


For more on Alberta Hunter and other 1920s cabaret blues singers, be sure to check out Alex van der Tuuk’s Paramount’s Rise and Fall, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.