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Ma Rainey
(April 26, 1886 - December 22, 1939) U.S.A.

Ma Rainey

Blues singer


Born in Columbus, Georgia, as Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett, she is the first of the great female blues singers and called the Mother of the Blues.

She was one of five children who spent their Sundays singing at the First African Baptist Church. In 1902, Gertrude found "the blues" and also "found" comedian William "Pa" Rainey. They began touring as a song and dance team working with tent shows/levee camps and cabarets throughout the south. They were married in 1904.

Ma enjoyed extraordinary success in the south. When folks found out that Ma Rainey was coming to town, it became an event. This being so, Ma was mostly unknown in the north. In 1923, she recorded with the Paramount Label. She now enjoyed success in the north and extended her touring to the northern cities and began to refer to herself as "Madame" Rainey.

n 1925 Rainey was arrested at a Chicago party where the women were completely nude. Next morning, Rainey's friend Bessie Smith bailed her out, and the history of music barely missed a beat.

Ma had an interesting relationship with the young Bessie Smith. Bessie joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in 1914 and Ma supposedly was her coach. Both were reported as being bi-sexual, but an affair between the two has never been proven. Although there were many singers during this period singing the same style of music, Bessie was her only rival. The two supposedly shared a love-hate relationship.

Popular from 1904 until 1935. Rainey recorded Prove It On Me Blues which included the openly lesbian line, "Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must've been women, 'cause I don't like no men."

Ma Rainey

In 1935, Ma Rainey retired from music and began living with brother Thomas Pridgett, a deacon at the Friendship Babptist Church in Columbus, GA. She became very involved in church activities. She was a very good businesswoman. Ma owned and operated The Lyric/Airdrome Theatres in Rome/Columbus, GA. She also became the foster mother to seven children. She died of a heart-attack.


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