Ma Rainey - Deep Moaning Blues - 1928

If Bessie Smith is the acknowledged “Queen of the Blues,” then Gertrude “Ma” Rainey is the undisputed “Mother of the Blues.” As music historian Chris Albertson has written, “If there was another woman who sang the blues before Rainey, nobody remembered hearing her.” Rainey fostered the blues idiom, and she did so by linking the earthy spirit of country blues with the classic style and delivery of Bessie Smith. She often played with such outstanding jazz accompanists as Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson, but she was more at home fronting a jugband or washboard band.

A country woman to the core, Rainey was born in Columbus, Georgia, on April 26, 1886. She began performing at age 14 with a local revue and, in her late teens, joined the touring Rabbit Foot Minstrels. By all accounts, she was the first woman to incorporate blues into vaudeville, minstrel and tent shows. In fact, it is believed that Rainey coached a young Bessie Smith while touring with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. After more than a quarter-century as a performer, Rainey was signed to Paramount Records in 1923, at age 38. She recorded over a hundred sides during her six years at Paramount. Her most memorable songs were often about the harsh realities of life in the Deep South for poor blacks, including such classics as “C.C. Rider,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Bo Weavil Blues.”

When the blues faded from popularity in the Thirties, the earthy Ma Rainey returned home to her Georgia hometown, where she ran two theaters until her death from a heart attack in 1939.

Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues
(M. Rainey)

Recorded: Chicago , May, 1925
'Ma' Rainey And Her Georgia Band
Ma Rainey (vcl), George „Hooks" Tifford (sax), Thomas Dorsey (p), unknown (kazoo), Cedric Odorn (d)

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