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Gertrude “Ma” Rainey biography –

Ma Rainey Born: April 26, 1886, Columbus, Georgia

Died: December 22, 1939, Columbus, Georgia

Also known as: Gertrude Pridgett

Ma Rainey is commonly known as the Mother of the Blues because of her significant influence on the many female blues singers who succeeded her. She began performing in minstrel and vaudeville shows around the age of 14, and is widely considered to be one of the first female singers to perform blues in that setting. She was an important link between the rough vocals of country blues, then a male-dominated genre which her vocal delivery resembled, and the more polished sound of classic urban blues, a female-dominated genre which she ultimately influenced. In 1904 Rainey married William (known as Pa) Rainey, and the two of them performed together calling themselves “Assasinators of the Blues.” Legend has it that during their travels Ma Rainey met Bessie Smith, and became somewhat of a mentor to the young singer. In addition to Rainey’s vocal prowess, she was also a talented songwriter. After more than two decades of performing, Rainey began to record in 1923, and she left behind a prolific legacy that includes many classics.

Ma Rainey on record

Essential listening: “C.C. Rider,” “Bo Weavil Blues,” “Jelly Bean Blues,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Ma Rainey