Ma Rainey: Assassinator of the Blues

Ma Rainey, The Mother of the Blues was born Gertrude Prodgett this day in 1886. She started singing professionally in tent shows in her early teens. The blues started creeping into her repertoire around 1902. A couple of years later she married fellow performer Pa Rainey and became his Ma. Together they were Rainey and Rainey — Assassinators of the Blues. For a number of years they ran with an outfit called the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, until Ma signed a record deal in 1923, became a star, and worked the black vaudeville circuits. She retired to her hometown in Georgia in 1925, running two theatres there until she passed away four years later. August Wilson wrore a terrfic play inspired by Ma Rainey; read my review of the 2020 screen adaptation here. 

To learn more about vaudeville, including blues shouters like Ma Rainey, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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