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Mon, 04.26.1886

Ma Rainey, Blues Singer born

Ma Rainey

*On this date in 1886, Blues Entertainer Ma Rainey was born.

Born Gertrude Malissa Nix Rainey Pridgitt was from Columbus, Ga.  From 1904, she toured southern American tent shows, levee camps, and cabarets in a song-and-dance team with her husband, William ("Pa") Rainey, a minstrel comic. She performed in the South and Midwest theatrical circuits through the 1920s, leading her troupes, including, at times, Bessie Smith and Thomas A. ("Georgia Tom") Dorsey.

Rainey recorded more than 90 songs from 1923 through 1928 with country blues musicians and Black jazz players. An outstanding, earthy stage presence, she retired in 1933 to own and operate two Georgia theaters and to join the Friendship Baptist Church.

"Mother of the Blues" was the first great Black professional blues vocalist.  A lesbian and bisexual woman, she died on December 22, 1939, in Rome, Ga.

To Become a Musician or Singer



Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

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