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An Introduction to Ma Rainey


Credited with recording the first blues song "Crazy Blues" in 1923, Ma Rainey was a Huge influence on performers like Bessy Smith.

She began performing at the age of 12 or 14, and recorded under the name Ma Rainey after she and Will Rainey were married in 1904. They toured with F.S. Wolcott’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group called Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. From the time of her first recording in 1923 to five years later, Ma Rainey made over 100 recordings. Some of them include, Bo-weevil Blues (1923), Moonshine Blues (1923),See See Rider (1924), Black Bottom (1927), and Soon This Morning (1927).

Ma Rainey was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition. Though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings, the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. Ma Rainey also recorded with Louis Armstrong in addition to touring and recording with the Georgia Jazz Band. Ma Rainey continued to tour until 1935 when she retired to her hometown.

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Comments

  1. Regarding the first sentence on this page: "...Credited with recording the first blues song "Crazy Blues" in 1923 ..." I am a big Ma Rainey fan, but...

    Actually, "Crazy Blues" was recorded in 1920 by Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds, and featured Willie The Lion Smith (not related to Mamie) on piano. Although there are those who dispute that Crazy Blues was the first "real blues" to be recorded by an African American, the recording still seems to retain its historical status as the first recorded real blues.

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