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Writing and Essays

Ma Rainey
'Mother of the Blues'

Bessie Smith
'The Empress of the Blues'

These two vocalists defined the sound of Classic Blues, then brought it to records in the early-1920s.

Shaping the sound of early blues on record, they brought the country roots of jazz and blues to urban life.  Their powerful  legacy continues to fascinate listeners and musicians.












Bessie Smith
The Empress of the Blues



Pt 1 - Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith

MA RAINEY & BESSIE SMITH 1A.mp3
YONDER COMES THE BLUES  --  Ma Rainey, 1926
YONDER COMES THE BLUES  --  Barbara Dane with Down Home Jazz Band, 1994
YOUNG WOMAN’S BLUES  --  Lavay Smith with John Gill’s Dixieland Serenaders, 1998
YOUNG WOMAN’S BLUES  --  Bessie Smith, and her Blue Boys, 1926
DOWNHEARTED BLUES  --  Pat Yankee & her Gentlemen of Jazz, 1995
DIRTY NO GOODERS BLUES  --  Pat Yankee & her Gentlemen of Jazz, 1995
DIRTY NO GOODERS BLUES  --  Bessie Smith acc. by James P. Johnson piano, 1929


MA RAINEY & BESSIE SMITH 1B.mp3
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM  --  Wende Harston with the Queen City Jazz Band, 1993
TRAIN MEDLEY  --  Pat Yankee & her Gentlemen of Jazz, 1995
GIMMIE A PIGFOOT AND A BOTTLE OF BEER  --  Pat Yankee, 1995
PROVE IT ON ME BLUES  --  Ma Rainey & her Tub Jug Washboard Band, 1928   
HEAR ME TALKIN’ TO YOU  --  Bob Helm and Carol Leigh’s Blues  & Jazz Revue, 1998
SOON THIS MORNING  --  Bob Helm & Carol Leigh’s Blues & Jazz Revue, 1998
JELLYBEAN BLUES  --  Chris Norris with the Golden Eagle Jazz Band, 1991
JELLYBEAN BLUES  --  Ma Rainey and her Georgia Band, 1924
   
















Ma Rainey was called
"The Mother of the Blues"


Pt 2 - Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith

MA RAINEY & BESSIE SMITH 2A.mp3
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM  --  Wende Harston with the Queen City Jazz Band, 1993
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM  --  Ma Rainey, 1927
OH PAPA BLUES  --  Ma Rainey, 1927
DON’T FISH IN MY SEA  --  Ma Rainey acc. by Jimmy Bythe, piano, 1926
GONE DADDY  BLUES  --  Bob Helm and Carol Leigh’s Blues & Jazz Revue, 1998
MISERY BLUES  --  Barbara Dane with Down Home Jazz Band, 1994
BARRELHOUSE BLUES  --  Bob Helm and Carol Leigh’s Blues  & Jazz Revue, 1998
LUCKY ROCK BLUES  --  Ma Rainey and her Georgia Jazz Band, 1924
BLACK EYE BLUES  --  Ma Rainey, 1928
MA RAINEY’S MYSTERY RECORD  --  Ma Rainey and her Georgia Jazz Band, 1924


MA RAINEY & BESSIE SMITH 2B.mp3
NEED A LITTLE SUGAR IN MY BOWL  --  Bessie Smith, 1931
TROMBONE CHOLLY  --  Bessie Smith and her Blue Boys, 1927
BACK WATER BLUES  --  Bessie Smith acc. by James P. Johnson, piano,  1927
BABY DOLL  --  Bessie Smith, 1926
WASTED LIFE BLUES  --  Bessie Smith acc. by James P. Johnson,  piano, 1929   
AFTER YOU’VE GONE  --  Bessie Smith and her Band, 1927
ST. LOUIS GAL  --  Wende Harston with Queen City Jazz Band, 1995
   
















Ma Rainey was a charismatic early Classic Blues singer who spread the music, and inspired Bessie Smith.














Bessie Smith was the most dynamic of all Classic Blues singers. 

Though her technical range was limited, her dynamic voice was an eloquent instrument capable of unlimited emotional expression.