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Ma Rainey

"Ma" Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, September 1882 or April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. She was billed as the "Mother of the Blues".

She began performing as a teenager and became known as Ma Rainey after her marriage to Will 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 next five years, she made over 100 recordings, including "Bo-Weevil Blues" (1923), "Moonshine Blues" (1923), "See See Rider Blues" (1924), "Black Bottom" (1927), and "Soon This Morning" (1927).

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".

Rainey recorded with Louis Armstrong, and she toured and recorded with the Georgia Jazz Band. She continued to tour until 1935, when she retired and went to live in her hometown.

Birth and Death Data: Born April 26th, 1886 (Alabama), Died December 22nd, 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.


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  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Rainey, Ma," accessed July 29, 2021,

Rainey, Ma. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 29, 2021, from

"Rainey, Ma." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 29 July 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier



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