Gertrude "Ma" Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was an influential blues singer and early blues recording artist. The "Mother of the Blues", she bridged earlier vaudeville and the authentic expression of southern blues, influencing a generation of blues singers.
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" (1924), "Ma Rainey's 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 Thomas Dorsey and Louis Armstrong, and she toured and recorded with the Georgia Jazz Band. She toured until 1935, when she largely retired from performing and continued as a theater impresario in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, until her death four years later.
Last Updated: August 19, 2021