#869: 1923, Ma Rainey, Bo Weavil Blues

by George_East on March 23, 2014

I was toying with breaking the 2014 duck with my song choice today – quite incredibly we are almost at the end of March without a single song so far from this year.

However, in the end I have gone to the other end of musical history, with this classic of the early blues and the first appearance in Songs To Learn and Sing of the Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey.   The reason for this is that Mrs East bought be an extraordinary box set of recordings from the old Paramount Label dating from 1917 to 1927 for my birthday last month, consisting of 6 vinyl albums and a memory stick of hundreds of other songs from the label – all beautifully packaged in a heavyweight wooden box with a book of biographies of the various artists, and another book dealing with the history of the label.    It is perhaps not surprising to find that it is Jack White’s Third Man record who is behind all of this.

For the first time today I played through all of the vinyl albums – I had previously only sat down and listened to the first side.  My parents were staying with me and my Dad likes all things early blues and it seemed a good excuse to listen to the collection properly for the first time.

Ma Rainey was only the second black female singer to be recorded (after Mamie Smith) and had one of the greatest of all female blues voices.  Musical legend has it that it was Ma Rainey who kidnapped the great Bessie Smith, taught her how to sing the blues and took her on the road.

This is the wonderful sublime deep history of recorded popular music, about the beetle that would destroy cotton crops in the delta south, putting the desperately poor farm labourers out of work.

The recording techniques have improved out of recognition since this was released.  The quality of the music, on the other hand, not so much.  2014 can wait.

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