The “Mother of the Blues”

Born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1886, Gertrude Pridgett probably couldn’t have predicted what would become of her life. She began singing and performing in her early teens, and in the early 1900s she took her act to a variety of minstrel shows in the South. In 1902, Pridgett married and changed her name to Ma Rainey, a moniker that attract great fame by the end of her life.

Blues music was just growing in popularity in the early 1900s, and Rainey typically sang a few Blues numbers in each of her performances. She became known as a blues musician, and when the record industry went looking for singers to lay down some tracks, they found Ma Rainey. She signed with Paramount Records in 1923 and went on to record 100 songs over the next five years, earning her a reputation as the “Mother of Blues.”

Among those many recordings are songs performed with legendary musician Louis Armstrong. Ma Rainey also toured and recorded with the Georgia Jazz Band for several years before retiring from music in 1935.

Today, Ma Rainey’s enduring influence is on display at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival, held annually every Memorial Day Weekend in Simi Valley, California. Come out and join us for our next festival taking place Saturday and Sunday, May 24th and 25th, of Memorial Day Weekend 2014. More information about the festivities can be found at the event’s website.