A key figure in the new art form of Classic Blues, Ma Rainey is one of the earliest well-known professional blues singers in America. She had developed and broaden the melodic possibilities of the Blues, which in turns influenced the younger generation of blues women. However, her materials were repetitive and only within a limited range.

Rainey was known as Gertrude Pridgett before she married to Will Rainey, who was William Pa Rainey. Since then, she performed and recorded under the name “Madame Gertrude Rainey”, and later, “Ma Rainey”.  The couple sang and danced together in Black minstrel shows and tour levee camps and cabarets together.

Rainey was also touring south and Midwest around the turn of the century. She performed extensively throughout the 1920s, with her own troupes, inclusive of Bessie Smith at times.

Ma Rainey (1886 – 1939)
                                                                                           Image from Wikipedia

Ma Rainey was famous for her powerful vocal abilities and majestic vocal qualities. Her voice, however, carried a tragic sense of intensity. She recorded close to 100 songs between the period of 1923 to 1928 with a variety of black jazz players and blues musicians. In 1933, she retired, earning the title “ mother of the blues.”

~Written by Boon Sin Ler

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