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Ma Rainey – Wholly Mother of Blues!

Ma Rainey – Wholly Mother of Blues!

This picture is a reminder of the late great Ma Rainey and her over the top personality! Especially when she performs the blues! Shortly after, she’s the “Mother of the Blues!” Also one of the first blues singers to record music. Recording more than 100 singles that makes a historical blues imprint for future generations! 

Ma Rainey – Authentic Blues

Singer Ma Rainey is one of three women that successfully incorporates authentic blues into their song repertoire and later the “Mother of the Blues.”  The other two women are Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters, but their style is a more subdue than Ma Rainey.  These three women help to create a style of blues music called “Classic female blues” aka “Vaudeville Blues.

It is a style of blues led by female singers accompanied by pianists or small jazz ensembles and are the first blues to be recorded.  Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and the other singers in this genre were instrumental in spreading the popularity of the blues.

Growing up in Georgia

Ma Rainey is born in Columbus, Georgia on April 26, 1886, to road-tough minstrel troupers. At eighteen she marries William “Pa” Rainey, who takes her on the road working levee camps, tent shows and cabarets. They’re “Rainey and Rainy, Assassinators of the Blues” with Tolliver’s Circus and Musical Extravaganza.

Separating from her husband in 1916, Rainey subsequently tours with her own band, Madam Gertrude, Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Sets, featuring a chorus line and a Cotton Blossoms Show, and Donald McGregor’s Carnival Show.  Her musical delivery is a direct and to the point style of southern blues. When she performs, she dresses to the nines in glitzy attire with her larger than life voice belting out the blues!

She had a throng of followers throughout the south which later made recording a record an obvious choice.  So, with the help of Mayo “Ink” Williams, Rainey first recorded for the Paramount label in 1923, where she entered the recording industry as an experienced and stylistically mature talent.

Her first session, cut with Austin and Her Blue Serenaders, featured the traditional number “Bo-Weevil Blues. In 1923, Rainey also released “Moonshine Blues” with Lovie Austin, and “Yonder Comes the Blues” with Louis Armstrong.

Furthermore, the same year, Rainey records “See See Rider,” a number that, as Arnold Shaw observes in Black Popular Music in America, emerges as “one of the most famous and recordings of all blues songs. (Rainey’s) is the first recording of that song, giving her a hold on the copyright, and one of the best of the more than 100 versions.

A Shrewd Business Woman!

She is a shrewd business woman and retires from the music business in 1935 and settled in Columbus, Georgia. For the next several years, she devotes her time to the ownership of three entertainment venues. The Lyric Theater, the Liberty Theatre, and the Airdrome. Ma Rainey passes away on December 22, 1939. 

She passes on but she’s definitely, not forgotten! Rainey is an inductee into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1983. And also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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Credits: / Cover picture video screenshot /Video Credits: – Novine


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