Ma and Fats
I really enjoy finding songs that have interesting origins and sometimes a very long past.
Original version and the writer (with Lena Arent) of the song, Ma Rainey-1924
Ma Rainey (called the “Mother of the Blues”) from what I have read was a larger than life performer who was a major recording artist for Paramount Records in the 1920’s. Born Gertrude Pridgett, she married another singer known as Pa Rainey, hence the name Ma. However, she made it no secret she preferred the company of women and referred to this in more than one of her songs. She started in traveling shows as a young teen and worked her way up to head lining her own shows. She was by all accounts a smart business woman and mentor to Bessie Smith (another time I can talk about “the Empress of the Blues”). An inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 she paved the way for both black men and women in the recording of the Blues. When she retired from performing she opened three movie theatres in her hometown of Columbus Georgia and died in 1939.
The Grammy nominated Ester Philips recorded this perhaps in 1970 by it was released on an album in 1976, not one of her chart-topping successes but a very soulful rendition. She lost the Grammy for another song she had done to the legendary Aretha Franklin in 1972 or 1973, but apparently Aretha gave the trophy to her saying she should have won. Her life, cut short at just age 48 was quite tragic and fraught unfortunately like too many artists with drug abuse.
Here is a remake of her song by Mitch Ryder in 1966, which I believe is the first version to give it a more rock and roll twist. Virtually duplicated by Eric Burdon and the Animals that same year. Not a chart maker for either of them but early in their careers and I think helped mold their style.
This song has been recorded over 250 times. It has become one of the great classic go-to blues songs but recorded by the likes of ‘non-traditional’ blues artists such as Cher and the Everly Brothers. Other notable covers are Big Bill Broonzy in 1934 a pioneer in the Chicago Blues scene, the great Lois Armstrong in 1957, the amazing Ray Charles in 1960, all the way up to Poppa Chubby in 2002 and it continues to be remade as recently as 2016 and I’m sure it will be again and again. As with many of these songs the lyrics and even the tune itself has varied quite a bit but all with the inspiration coming from the original.
I’m also a bit of a fan of Fats Domino and certainly one of his most well-known songs was “Blueberry Hill”. A prolific artist with many original songs this however was among several covers he recorded.
Here is one of the first recordings.
Fats Domino did it in 1956 and is still the most famous recording of 164 versions, originally done by Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye in 1940. Written by Vincent Rose, the lyrics by Al Lewis and Larry Stock. Here is Fats version.
A hilarious video of Putin mostly faking a version
Sources; Wikipedia, Secondhandsongs.com, YouTube, various internet searches.
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