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Ma Rainey

(Gertrude Pridgett)
blues musician
Born: 4/26/1886
Birthplace: Columbus, Georgia

Often called the “Mother of the Blues,” Rainey is credited with the rise in popularity of blues music at the beginning of the 20th century. She was also known as the “Gold Necklace Woman of the Blues” because she carried her wealth in gold dollars on a chain. The child of minstrel show performers, Gertrude Pridgett took to the stage at 14. In 1904, she married Will “Pa” Rainey and together they performed as the Assassinators of the Blues. She sang for more than 20 years before her recording debut in 1923. Although her recording career lasted a mere six years, she recorded more than 100 songs, including “Bo-Weavil Blues” and “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,” supported by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, and Louie Austin. In the 30s, when female blues singers became less popular with audiences, Rainey retired to her hometown. Her obituary described her as a housekeeper but her recording legacy continues to influence successive generations of musicians. Inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, she was honored on a U.S. postage stamp in 1994.

Died: Columbus, Georgia, 12/22/1939

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