Ma Rainey

  • BORN: September, 1882, Alabama
  • DIED: December 22, 1939, Columbus, Georgia
  • vocals

Ma Rainey was born Gertrude Malissa Pridgett in Alabama, the daughter of minstrel performers. In 1900, she began her performing career as a contestant in a talent show known as A Bunch of Blackberries. Four years later she married entertainer William "Pa" Rainey and changed her professional name to "Ma" Rainey. Sometimes the couple called themselves "Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues," and they toured extensively through the South, performing with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, Silas Green's, Tolliver's Circus and other similar tent shows. It was during this time that Ma was thought to have coached a young Bessie Smith. Ma Rainey was certainly one of the first singers to bring blues songs to a wider audience; she even claimed to have coined the term "blues" after hearing a girl sing a strange and poignant song about the man who had left her in a small Missouri town in 1902, where Rainey was appearing with a show under a tent. Rainey wore sequined dresses, glittery headbands, ostrich feathers, a necklace of gold coins and gold toothed smile, and toured in railroad cars emblazoned with her name. By the early '20s, she was one of the best-known blues singers in the South. In 1923, she signed a contract with Paramount Records, which billed her as the "Mother of The Blues." During her six years with Paramount, she recorded around 100 songs, including classics such as "See See Rider," "Bo-Weavil Blues," "Moonshine Blues," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Her records featured her with jug bands, guitar duos, and bluesmen such as Tampa Red, Georgia Tom Dorsey and Blind Blake, in addition to the more customary horns-and-piano jazz-band accompaniment (occasionally including such noted musicains as Louis Armstrong, Fretcher Henderson, Lovie Austin, and Coleman Hawkins). Rainey continued working as a blues singer until 1935, when she retired to Georgia to operate two movie theaters. She died of a heart attack in 1939.



September 1882
Born Gertrude Pridgett in Alabama, the daugher of Thomas and Ella Allen Pridgett.
Gertrude's father, Thomas Pridgett, dies.
circa 1896-1900
Ella Allen Pridgett takes Gertrude and moves from Alabama to Columbus, Georgia.
Gertrude Pridgett makes her first public appearance at the Bunch of Blackberries.
Ma Rainey later claimed that she added blues songs to her repertoire at this time, but no hard evidence has been forthcoming.
Gertrude Pridgett marries William "Pa" Rainey and changes her name to "Ma" Rainey.
December 1923
Rainey signs for Paramount Records. She records with Lovie Austin and Her Blues Serenaders in Chicago.
circa March 1924
Rainey records with The Pruitt Twins in Chicago.
circa March 1924
Rainey records several songs with The Blues Serenaders in Chicago.
circa April 1924
With Charles Harris on alto sax supplementing the Blues Serenaders, Rainey continues to record in Chicago.
circa May 1924
Rainey records several songs with Lovie Austin and Her Blues Serenaders (plus Chales Harris) in Chicago.
circa August 1924
Rainey records two songs, accompanied by just Milas Pruitt on twelve-string.
circa October 15, 1924
Rainey travels to New York to record a session there. Howard Scott on cornet, Charlie Green on trombone, Don Redman on clarinet, Fletcher Henderson on piano and Charlie Dixon on banjo.
circa October 16, 1924
Rainey continues to record in New York. Recording with Louis Armstrong on cornet, Charlie Green on trombone, Butler Bailey on clarinet, Fletcher Henderson on piano, and Charlie Dixon on banjo.
circa November 1924
Rainey records with Lovie Austin and her band in Chicago.
May 1925
Rainey and Her Georgia Band record "Army Camp Harmony Blues", "Explaining The Blues", "Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues" and "Goodbye Daddy Blues" in Chicago.
circa August 1925
Sessions in Chicago.
circa December 1925
Rainey records several songs with Fletcher Henderson and his band, Joe Smith, Charlie Green, Buster Bailey, Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Dixon in New York.
circa March 1926
Sessions in Chicago.
circa March 1926
Rainey records "Mountain Jack Blues" in Chicago.
  • Mountain Jack Blues (Take 1) - @YouTube
  • Mountain Jack Blues (Take 3) - @YouTube
June 1926
Rainey records three songs in Chicago. The backing-band of session musicians includes Homer Hobson on cornet, Albert Wynn on trombone, Tom Brown on clarinet, Doc Cheatham on soprano sax, Lil Henderson on piano, Rip Bassett on banjo, and Ben Thigpen on drums.
circa June 1926
Rainey records "Trust No Man" in Chicago.
circa November 1926, Chicago, Illinois
Recorded for Paramount.
  • Morning Hour Blues
circa November 1926, Chicago, Illinois
Recorded for Paramount.
  • Weeping Woman Blues
  • Soon This Morning
circa December 1926
With Blind Blake on guitar and Leroy Pickett on violin, Rainey records two songs in Chicago.
  • Little Low Mama Blues
  • Grievin' Hearted Blues
circa December 1926
Rainey records 'Don't Fish In My Sea' in Chicago.
  • Don't Fish In My Sea
circa August 1927, Chicago, Illinois
Recorded for Paramount.
  • Big Boy Blues
  • Blues Oh Blues
circa August 1927, Chicago, Illinois
Recorded for Paramount.
  • Damper Down Blues
  • Gone Daddy Blues (Take 1)
  • Oh Papa Blues
circa August 1927
In Chicago, Ma Rainey records three songs with Claude Hopkins on piano, Kid Ory on trombone, Shirley Clay on clarinet and an unknown banjoist.
  • Misery Blues
  • Dead Drunk Blues
  • Slow Driving Moan
circa December 1927, Chicago, Illinois
Recorded for Paramount.
  • Blues The World Forgot - Part I
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • Blues The World Forgot - Part II
  • Hellish Rag
  • Georgia Cake Walk
  • New Bo Weavil Blues
  • Moonshine Blues
  • Ice Bag Papa
June 12, 1928
Rainey's first recording with Georgia Tom Dorsey. Dorsey is supplemented by Martell Pettiford on banjo; whilst Herman Brown provides kazoo and washboard.
  • Black Cat Hoot Owl Blues
  • Log Camp Blues
  • Hear Me Talking To You
  • Hustlin' Blues
  • Prove It To Me Blues
  • Victim Of The Blues
  • Traveling Blues (Take 1)
  • Traveling Blues (Take 2)
  • Deep Moaning Blues (Take 1)
  • Deep Moaning Blues (Take 2)
circa September 1928
Recorded with just Georgia Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red.
  • Daddy Goodbye Blues
  • Sleep Talking Blues (Take 1)
  • Sleep Talking Blues (Take 2)
  • Tough Luck Blues
  • Blame It On The Blues
  • Sweet Rough Man
  • Runaway Blues
circa September 1928
Rainey records two songs, accompanied by just Eddie Miller on piano.
  • Screech Owl Blues
  • Black Dust Blues
circa September 1928
Recorded with just Georgia Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red.
  • Leaving This Morning
  • Black Eye Blues (Take 1)
  • Black Eye Blues (Take 2)
circa October 1928
Rainey and Papa Charlie Jackson record "Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues" in Chicago.
1928年10月。レイニーはパパ・チャーリー・ジャクスンといっしょに、「Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues」をレコーディングする。場所はシカゴ。
  • Ma And Pa Poorhouse Blues
circa December 1928
Rainey records "Big Feeling Blues" with Papa Charlie Jackson.
1928年12月。パパ・チャーリー・ジャクスンといっしょに「Big Feeling Blues」を録音。
  • Big Feeling Blues
early 1930s
Rainey is interviewed by John W. Work at The Douglass Hotel in Nashville.
December 22, 1939
Rainey dies of a heart-attack.
January 17, 1990
Rainey is inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame at it's fifth annual ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.


Infl by:

Infl to: Clara Smith, Bessie Smith, Susie Edwards, Memphis Minnie