Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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RAINEY, Ma

(b Gertrude Pridgett, 26 April 1886, Columbus GA; d there 22 Dec. '39) Blues singer. Born into a family of minstrel troupers, she married William 'Pa' Rainey of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels; they formed a song and dance team and worked throughout the South, sometimes with Bessie Smith. Ma and Bessie began recording the same year, and brought to the blues the authentic sound of the black working-class South at a time when the newly-discovered genre was in danger of being 'citified' by artists like Lucille Hegamin (b 29 Nov. 1894, Macon GA; d 1 March '70, NYC) and Edith Wilson (b 2 Sep. 1896, Louisville KY; d 30 March '81, Chicago), who were fine entertainers, but not the real country stuff. Bessie became the more famous, but Ma Like Bessie was a big no-nonsense woman with a voice to match, and took a second seat to no one. She made about 90 sides for Paramount '23--29, at first with Lovie Austin's Blue Serenaders, then with her own groups; she made the best-known recording of trad. 'See See Rider' (aka 'Easy Rider'). Collections on CD incl. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on Yazoo, Ma Rainey on Mainstream (with Louis Armstrong, Buster Bailey, 'Georgia Tom' Dorsey etc), 'complete' series begun on King Jazz and Black Swan.