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Mon, 04.26.1886

Ma Rainey, pioneer who nurtured the Blues

Ma Rainey

*On this date in 1886, Blues Entertainer Ma Rainey was born. "Mother of the Blues", she was the first great Black professional blues vocalist.

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 theatrical circuits of the South and Midwest through the 1920s, leading her own 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.  A lesbian and bisexual woman, she died on December 22, 1939 in Rome, Ga.

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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