See See Riders Blues

By: sonofabeach96

Dec 22 2015

Category: Uncategorized


In some circles, Robert Johnson is considered to be the Father of the Blues.  It’s hard to argue this fact, as he was inducted into the initial class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been mentioned as an influence by countless artists.  In fact, Eric Clapton has said Robert Johnson was “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”  In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked him no. 5 on its list of Top 100 guitarists of All-Time.  Throw in the oft-quoted story of him selling his soul to the Devil at The Crossroads in exchange for fame, and you have the stuff of legend.  Ironically, if the details of the bargain between Johnson and the Devil are accurate, Mr. Johnson got screwed, as he didn’t actually achieve fame until some 30 years after his death, in 1938, at the young age of 27.

So, if one considers Robert Johnson to be the Father of the Blues, the Mother of the Blues would have to be Ma Rainey, with her powerful voice, ahead-of-her-time lyrics, and energetic personality, she is considered one of the founders of the genre.

Born in 1886 in Rome, GA (or in 1882 in Alabama; the records are a bit sketchy from that time period), as Gertrude Pridgett, she became known as Ma Rainey after she married Will Rainey.  She had been performing from the age of 12, with an appearance in a talent show, then progressed to singing in traveling minstrel tent shows.  She and her husband formed the Alabama Fun Makers Company but would later join the much larger Rabbit’s Foot Company touring group.  The husband and wife team would eventually become Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues.  They spent much of their time in Chicago but wintered in New Orleans.  There they met, and collaborated with, the likes of Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Pops Foster.  Ma Rainey’s popularity increased as the blues itself became a more widely recognized genre.

She is seen by some in a socially progressive light as well.  Some of her lyrics describe what could be construed as her being a lesbian.  In her 1928 song, “Prove It on Me”, the lyrics go: “They said I do it, ain’t nobody caught me.  Sure got to prove it on me.  Went out last night with a crowd of my friends.  They must’ve been women, cause I don’t like no men.”  It’s thought this lyric refers to her arrest in 1925 for “taking part in an orgy at [her] home involving women in her chorus.”  Pretty scandalous, I would think, for that time period.  And to be singing about it with the intent of making a statement, as a black woman in that era, was bold by any measure.  Some scholars believe this song to be a precursor to the “lesbian-affirming” songs of the ’60’s and ’70’s.  Maybe it’s just me, but that term “lesbian-affirming” seems a bit iffy, but that’s how it was quoted.

Ma Rainey died on this date, in 1939, at the age of 53.  Her legacy as the Mother of the Blues is well-earned.  She was one of the first known American professional blues performers.  She was one of the first blues artists to be recorded, primarily in Chicago.  She was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1983.  She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.  She was immortalized on a US postage stamp in 1994.  In 2004, her song “See See Rider Blues”, written in 1925, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry by the National Recording Preservation Board.

So, in honor of the Mother, and the Father, of the blues, my songs of the day are:

“Prove It On Me” by Ma Rainey

“Traveling Riverside Blues” by Robert Johnson

“Standing At The Crossroads” by Elmore James

“Damn Right, I Got The Blues” by Buddy Guy

“Crossroads” by Cream

“Tombstone Blues” by Bob Dylan

“Nothin’ But The Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

10 comments on “See See Riders Blues”

  1. Another great post….kat

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She RULES! Have always loved her. Thanks for your write-up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another new one for me! Super cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cool! Just love your posting about singers!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always get so many compliments for my taste in music when I plug in your tunes at work. Touisaint, Brian Seltzer, Neil Young were the most well received, with customers actually taking a minute to groove out to the music. Priceless. Yesterday was Ma Rainey day at work for me. Perfect blend after a holiday. I had those little computer speakers cranked as high as they could go (the boss was still away on a holiday). As with all You tube mixes, the music changes and I got to hear some pretty awesome renditions of summertime, back door man and dream a little dream of me (lovely!).At one point I disappeared into the back and when I came back out, there was this cute little old lady standing at the counter, dropping off a xmas gift for my boss, with Barbara Carr’s “bone me like you own me” blaring in the background! I immediately turned the music down, and accepted her gift. She paused at the door, looked at me and smiled and said ‘nice music’. No joke! Too funny to not share!! Happy Tuesday! Have a good one!

    Liked by 1 person

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