Rainey, Ma [née Pridgett, Gertrude]
- Paul Oliver
[née Pridgett, Gertrude]
(b Columbus, GA, April 26, 1886; d Rome, GA, Dec 22, 1939). American blues, jazz and vaudeville singer. Her career began in a talent show in Columbus when she was 12 and soon afterwards she appeared as a cabaret singer. She married Will ‘Pa’ Rainey in 1904 and toured with him in F.S. Wolcott’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels and other shows until 1916, when they formed their own company as ‘Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues’. By the time she first recorded (1923) she had become famous throughout the South. In five years she made more than 100 recordings. These did little justice to her vocal power, but a majestic phrasing and ‘moaning’ style close to folk tradition are evident from her first titles (and most celebrated compositions), Bo-Weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues (both 1923, Para.). Although she recorded under the name of Ma Rainey, she was known as ‘Madame’ on tour with the Georgia Jazz Band during the 1920s, when she played to large audiences throughout the South and in Mexico and established a lasting reputation as the most significant early female blues singer. Her rumbustious disposition is rarely evident in her recordings, and ...