By Julianne G. Crane
With the recent premiere of the film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey is introduced to a new generation.
Often referred to as the “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey was a musical revolutionary. She incorporated various styles of blues, jazz, and her own personal flair.
People can learn more about her life and career at the Ma Rainey House & Blues Museum in Columbus, Ga. The restored “shotgun” style house features exhibits honoring Ma Rainey’s extraordinary life. The Blues part of the Museum traces the history and influences of the blues tradition of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley of Georgia.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the museum is observing safety protocols. These include limiting the number of people being admitted and requiring the wearing of masks, according to the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.
Some of Ma Rainey’s accomplishments
Born as Gertrude Pridgett on April 26, 1886, she passed at age 53 in 1939 of heart failure. During her almost 40-year career, “she tutored, sponsored, performed with, and recorded with many of the foremost pioneers of American blues and jazz. These included Louis Armstrong, Thomas A. Dorsey, ‘Blind Blake’ and Bessie Smith,” according to ExploreGeorgia.org.
Rainey recorded more than 100 records and inspired generations of musicians. For example, her deep, raspy vocals were said to have influenced Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Big Mama Thornton, and Janis Joplin.
Rainey was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 She was also inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1993. Rainey was commemorated by the U.S. Postal Service for her achievements in 1994 with a stamp in her honor.
If you go
Ma Rainey House & Blues Museum
805 Fifth Ave., Columbus, GA 31901
Phone: (706) 641-5933.
Free: Admission, Parking, Self-guided Tours
Family friendly, Suitable for all ages, Partially accessible
Open Year ‘Round, Tuesday – Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ma Rainey’s museum is about an hour southwest of Warm Springs, home to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Little White House”. It’s an hour northwest of President Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains. (Read more about Plains and nearby Americus and Koinonia Farms by clicking here.)
Writer’s Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, I am highlighting places that can be safely experienced from the road or in an outdoor public space such as a park or college campus. Therefore, if you know of cities with outstanding public art collections, or unique places, please let me know so I can feature them.