Mary Smith McClain, better known as Walking Mary and later Diamond Teeth Mary, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, on August 27, 1902. Mary is a half sister of Bessie Smith (Smith's mother was one of Mary's four stepmothers) and witnessed the tragic end of Bessie's life. Mary recalled " Bessie was lying in a hospital waiting room, her arm hangin' by a thread and bleedin' in a pan while the white doctors stood by and watched doing nothin'. They let her die." At the age of 13, Mary couldn't stand the beatings any more and left home to join the circus disguised as a boy in her brother's clothes. She ended up in Memphis, Tennessee, worked as a chorus girl and eventually was picked up by the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, with whom she became a featured singer. Mary spent the twenties and thirties performing in a variety of medicine and minstrel shows. She shared billings with Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. She toured with the USO and has sung at the Apollo theater in New York, at the Smithsonian, and at the White House where her show-stopping charisma invariably would get the standing-ovation audiences in the spirit.