Ma Rainey (April 26, 1886 - December 22, 1939) was an American blues singer, a pioneer of the medium, and one of the first generation of blues artists to record. She was billed as The Mother of the Blues. Many felt she did much to develop and popularize the blues form, and she was an important influence on most younger blues women, such as Bessie Smith.
After marrying William 'Pa' Rainey in 1904, she changed her name to Ma Rainey (from Gertrude Pridgett) and the pair toured as Rainey & Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues.
Ma Rainey was already a veteran performer with decades of touring with African American shows in the U.S. Southern States when she made her first recordings in 1923. Rainey signed with Paramount Records recorded prolifically, sometimes accompanied by bands includings such jazz notables as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Fletcher Henderson, and others. Rainey was extremely popular among southern blacks in the 1920s, but the Great Depression and changing tastes ended her career by 1933, when she retired. In 1939, Rainey died of a heart attack.