Jazz violinist Emma “Ginger” Smock was born in Chicago in 1920. She moved to Los Angeles after her parents’ deaths and was raised by her aunt and uncle, and she soon displayed precocious musical talent.
Smock spent the early 1940s performing light concert music before becoming a protégé of veteran jazz violinist Stuff Smith in 1943. While Los Angeles’s music community grew in talent and influence, female musicians like Smock faced limited opportunities in the male-dominated world of jazz on Central Avenue. Her situation would improve with the start of World War II. Bandleaders and club owners found themselves short-handed because of the draft, which led them to hire female musicians and even all-female ensembles.