Ma Rainey may not have been the first woman to sing the blues, but she might as well have.
Her 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.
Hall of Fame Essay
They call them classic-blues singers - women like Ida Cox, Sippie Wallace and Bessie Smith, who sang their way into musical history during the blues boom of the Twenties.
The truth is that most of them were simply vaudevillians whose record companies steered them in a popular direction, and the results were often rendered memorable by the accompaniment rather than the vocalist.
A significant exception was Smith, the unchallenged Queen of Blues, whose voice and delivery no other singer could match. But if there really was such a thing as a classic-blues singer, it was Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, an artist to whom even Smith owed a considerable debt.
the fire and gusto of Ma’s singing was exceptional
Photography: Kevin Mazur, WireImage
Cleveland, Ohio 44114