Gertrude Pridgett “Ma” Rainey
Why she kicks ass:
- She is considered by many to be the Mother of the Blues. The Georgia based singer was well known for her soulful, moaning vocals on blues records in the 1920s. She paved the way for other artists such as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.
- Rainey’s on-stage persona, “Ma,” was a larger than life, flamboyant, and vivacious character that attracted much attention and cat-calling. She appeared in fancy costume dress and bellowing out vocals and encouraging crowds to dance. With her long, shining hair straightened and styled to stick out; her exuberant smile capped in gold, and often sporting large hats with colorful plumes and strings of gaudy, bright necklaces. She taught audiences how to dance the infamous “Black Bottom” dance, dripping with sexual innuendo and humor. She had a booming, confident sexuality and grace that captivated audiences wherever she went.
- In 1923 she signed a contract with Paramount, becoming one of the first woman to ever sign a recording contract, as well as one of the first women to record the blues. No small feat for a poor African-American woman in 1920s Georgia. Rainey proved herself to be a hot commodity, producing over 100 recordings for Paramount, including several songs with Louis Armstrong and other important jazz and blues performers of the time.
- She lived the rest of her life acting as a mentor and coach to other performers, and using her performing arts houses to showcase great music and other acts.
- An inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the Georgia Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, Rainey has been influential on many modern day artists. Rainey has inspired a host of books, plays and songs and continues to delight and charm fans of the blues with her unique style and voice.
<3 Ma Rainey <3