Lady Day (Billie Holiday) may had been the empress of the blues but Ma Rainey was the GrandMother of it all.
“Ma” Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, September 1882 or April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939. With home birth and often no censor record it was easy to lose a person’s birthdate. Birthdays were not celebrated back then as they are today. Some say she was born in Alabama and other say she was born in Columbus her parents were from Alabama but we do know she got her start in a church in Columbus, Ga.
“Ma” Rainey was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. She is called as the “Mother of the Blues”
Her steady, sturdy, tough vocals wiped away any memory of other blues singers. Whatever you heard before, it was not the blues—because no one else sang the blues like Ma Rainey. Not even W.C. Handy and Muddy Waters could touch Ma Rainey. She was who Bessie Smith model herself after.
What’s the connection between Ma Rainey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe other than their music coming from the same background? Sister Rosetta Tharpe was able to take it further and cement into main stream America. Being a gospel singer she was viewed as less threatening and conservative. But their music and songs were saying the same thing just in a different tone.
I mention things like this because most people gaven’t a clue where the worldwide pop culture comes from.