ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey Biography

Updated on January 16, 2016

The American Blues

The Blues is TRUE American music
The Blues is TRUE American music | Source

The Mother of the Blues

Ma Rainey

One of the Earliest known American Blues Singer

Born April 26, 1886(?) - Died December 22, 1939

Known for great hits like 'Bo-weevil Blues' and 'See See Rider'

It's documented, as far as the 1900 Census is concerned, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey was born in the month of September in the year of 1882. Fact is, nobody really knows for sure. What's also not very clear, and especially to Gertrude Rainey, is exactly how many siblings she had. It's known that she was the second of five children, and that she had at least two brothers and one sister, but again, nobody knows for sure.

Gertrude's parents, Thomas and Ella Pridgett, were originally from Alabama. It was in 1902 that Gertrude was first introduced to the Blues and by the time she was 12 or 14-years-old she was already performing for talent shows. She was a member of the First African Baptist Church where she commonly performed by singing and dancing in tent shows. She did this until she hooked up with F.S. Wolcott's Rabbit Foot Minstrels and for years toured with them. While touring, she met and sometimes performed privately with Blues legends such as Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Pops Foster.

Blues music was getting popular, and Gertrude "Ma" Rainey could have been the reason. There was a demand for black Blues musicians and everybody wanted a piece of Ma Rainey. Gertrude "Ma" Rainey stayed active between the years of 1900 - 1933 and sounded just as good in her last 'live' performance as she did in her first.

Gertrude Rainey was known for having a powerful voice. Her voice could carry through the largest of crowds, but unfortunately, you can't tell through any of her recordings. Paramount, who were known for their very poor recording quality, had the rights to Gertrude Rainey and did a horrible job of capturing her true vocal gift. She was also known for being quite energetic on stage and very entertaining (which again, you couldn't tell by the recordings). She was very witty, intelligent, wise and above all - a little wild! It's rumored that sometime between 1912 and 1916, she kidnapped an up and coming blues singer who was making a name for herself (Bessie Smith), took her under her wing, taught her to sing and then made her join the blues band that Rainey was in - Rabbit Foot Minstrels.

Gertrude married Will Rainey in 1904 and the both of them joined Rabbit Foot Minstrels, but later formed their own group 'Rainey and Rainey: Assassinators of the Blues' and became very successful.

After 33 years of performance, Gertrude Rainey decided to retire in 1933, and died nearly 6 years later.

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey's legacy will live on. Popular musicians such as Bob Dylan and Memphis Minnie made a tribute in her honor through songs that they wrote by referencing her.

I've listened to recordings of Ma Rainey since writing this Hub and I have to say, I am impressed.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • James Peters profile imageAUTHOR

      James Timothy Peters 

      6 years ago from Hammond, Indiana

      Thank You very much for the comment!

      I appreciate all I can get!

      Thanks again.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Nice job!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)