William "Pa" Rainey

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William Rainey

Death: circa 1919 (34-51)
Immediate Family:

Husband of Gertrude "Ma" Rainey
Father of Danny Rainey

Occupation: Dancer, singer, comedian, manager
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William "Pa" Rainey

From Ma Rainey." Bio. A&E Television Networks.  "On February 2, 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. ... Separated from her husband in 1916 ..."

From Persephone Magazine

Shortly after beginning her career, [Gertrude Pridgett] met the man who would become her husband. At the age of eighteen, she married William “Pa” Rainey, who went on to become her manager and mentor. Together, as “Ma and Pa Rainey,” the couple travelled around Georgia, performing and making a name for their act. The couple were hard-working, charming, and popular, managing to make a career out of Gertrude’s soulful and often funny singing style for more than thirty years.

From The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

She made her performing debut at the age of 14 in a local show called “A Bunch of Blackberries. ” In her late teens, she married William Rainey, and both toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.  

That troupe is said to have featured Rainey singing the blues. If that is true, those performances precede the blues boom by some 17 years. No matter, by all accounts, she was the first woman to incorporate blues into vaudeville, minstrel and tent shows. In fact, it is believed that Rainey coached a young Bessie Smith while touring with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. 

In 1914, she and her husband began touring as Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. They often spent their winters in New Orleans, and there she met such musicians as Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Pops Foster.  

  • "Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey" By Sandra R. Lieb]. Page 18. Adopted a son Danny, billed as "the world's greatest juvenile stepper.". Apparently in the late teens the Rainey's separated and Pa died. Ma was later remarried to a younger man. (41)
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William "Pa" Rainey's Timeline