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Ma Rainey

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Biography

Gertrude Pridgett Rainey, better known as Ma Rainey (Columbus, Georgia, April 26, 1886 – Columbus, Georgia, December 22, 1939), was one of the earliest known professional singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. She was billed as The Mother of the Blues. She did much to develop and popularize the form and was an important influence on younger blues women, such as Bessie Smith, and their careers.

She first appeared on stage in Columbus in “A Bunch of Blackberries” at the age of 14. She then joined a traveling vaudeville troupe, the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. After hearing a blues song at a theater in St. Louis sung by a local girl in 1902, she started performing in a blues style. She claimed at that time that she was the one who coined the name “blues” for the style that she specialized in. Musicians and singers who had sang and played in the style said there were no such origins and that the blues had always been. A pioneer in the style, Bunk Johnson said that in the 1880s the blues had already been developed.

She married fellow vaudeville singer William ‘Pa’ Rainey in 1904, changing her name to Ma Rainey. The pair toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels as Rainey & Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues, singing a mix of blues and popular songs. In 1912, she took the young Bessie Smith into the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, trained her, and worked with her until Smith left in 1915.

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  • MJtheRevelator

    My son often thinks that Ma Rainey is 'ghost music.' I think that he is right.

    27 Sep 12:37pm Reply
  • oldiesfanjohn

    ATTN : All 5 Volumes are available on Spotify that are the definitive of all Ma's recordings that you can peruse now. (All 110 Tracks + 5 hours,29 minutes of the great Ma Rainey = Spend the whole day with "The Mother Of The Blues") You get : Vol 1 - (1923-1924) Vol 2 - (1924-1925) Vol 3 - (1925-1926) Vol 4 - (1926-1927) & Vol 5 - (1928) Heh heh,I feel like such a shill - jk ( ; but I only want to help the masses out. Enjoy everyone !!!

    13 Oct 2013 Reply
  • Batiste369

    vv There's a box-set called "Mother Of The Blues" that JSP Released in 2007. It features all of her recordings (including rare alternate takes). The box-set is generally less than $25 and is also available to download individually on iTunes or Amazon Mp3 (each disc cost about $10).

    20 Jan 2012 Reply
  • CaesarTheSalad

    Please help me with downloading her discography! Give me a reference. I only have an album called Ma Rainey((

    10 Feb 2011 Reply
  • bettinapaula

    J'aime cette femme!!

    30 Sep 2010 Reply
  • Batiste369

    When I get a letter it never brings good news, every time I see the mail-man Yonder Comes The Blues <3

    24 Sep 2010 Reply
  • staytooned

    Mama Bluez!

    20 Aug 2010 Reply
  • Ton87

    she's great

    2 Jul 2010 Reply
  • Batiste369

    One of the best of the female blues singers, She's amazing!

    15 Apr 2010 Reply
  • thegoodnames

    Timeless music, I love it.

    12 Apr 2010 Reply
  • Ton87

    Con-John, you could try a more recent compilation, maybe it has better mastering. I myself don't really care about hiss and crackle, it's more than 80 year old music and you can hear that.

    27 Feb 2010 Reply
  • Con-John

    I downloaded a compilation of Ma Rainey's Blues, but all the recordings sound a bit weird. Well OK, I know that they were recorded back at 1924 - 1928 but does anyone know if there is a possibility of finding better recordings?

    21 Sep 2009 Reply
  • bcwilliamson

    great blues. you might want to check out B.C. Williamson, who is a fictional blues artist with an endlessly complicated backstory, spanning over 60 years. and now he has a 22-track compilation album coming out. "The Greatest Blues Singer Who Never Lived."

    14 Jun 2009 Reply
  • iliveonaclock

    mmmm

    22 May 2009 Reply
  • afiya8

    I love this woman.

    27 Feb 2009 Reply
  • wendell3

    Are there any Ma Rainey compilations that don't sound like absolute crap? This reissue trend of "removing all crackles" at the expense of dynamics really drives me mad.

    9 Jan 2009 Reply
  • rigbytripper

    I just found out about Ma Rainey from an Augus Wilson play, enchanting and stirs me.

    2 Oct 2008 Reply
  • godwand

    Black Bottom is such a fun song

    31 Jul 2008 Reply
  • heyletsgetknown

    it's also used on a Ma Rainey comp, so that's probably how it got put up for the artist page.

    12 Sep 2007 Reply
  • Cardeira

    To whom it may concern kind of thing: the picture of Ma Rainey is actually one of Bessie Smith - and nobody can possibly say that they were very alike! What the hell happened here? The picture is even used on the cover of Bessie Smith compilations! WTF?

    20 Sep 2006 Reply
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