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Ma Rainey

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey (née Pridgett; April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was an American blues singer and influential early blues recording artist. Dubbed the "Mother of the Blues", she bridged earlier vaudeville and the authentic expression of southern blues, influencing a generation of blues singers. Rainey was known for her powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a "moaning" style of singing. Her qualities are present and most evident in her early recordings "Bo-Weevil Blues" and "Moonshine Blues".

Gertrude Pridgett began performing as a teenager and became known as "Ma" Rainey after her marriage to Will "Pa" Rainey in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Her first recording was made in 1923. In the following five years, she made over 100 recordings, including "Bo-Weevil Blues" (1923), "Moonshine Blues" (1923), "See See Rider Blues" (1925), the blues standard "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (1927), and "Soon This Morning" (1927).

Rainey also collaborated with Thomas Dorsey, Tampa Red, and Louis Armstrong, and toured and recorded with the Georgia Jazz Band. Touring until 1935, she then largely retired from performing and continued as a theater impresario in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, until her death four years later. She has been posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rainey has been portrayed in several films including the 2020 Academy Award-winning film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. In 2023, she was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Birth and Death Data: Born April 26, 1886 (Alabama), Died December 22, 1939 (Columbus)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1924 - 1930

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist

Notes: Appears on some disc labels as Gertrude Rainey; full name: Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett Rainey.

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Columbia 81671 10-in. 4/7/1924 Boweavil blues Irving Johns ; Bessie Smith Female vocal solo ("blues singer"), with piano composer  
Columbia 81676 10-in. 4/9/1924 Moonshine blues Irving Johns ; Bessie Smith Female vocal solo ("blues singer"), with piano composer, lyricist  
Columbia W151010 10-in. 12/4/1930 Moonshine blues Jimmie Tarlton Male vocal solo, with steel guitar composer, lyricist  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Rainey, Ma," accessed July 22, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102149.

Rainey, Ma. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102149.

"Rainey, Ma." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 22 July 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102149

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