While my contemporaries were listening to Elvis and the Beatles, I was listening to folk music and the blues. So, of course, I heard Ma Rainey songs and wondered what it would have been like to see one of her over-the-top, gravel-voiced performances in person. Sadly, not possible since the “Mother of the Blues” died here in Rome, Georgia before I was born.
As I wrote my Florida Folk Magic Series of novels about a Florida conjure woman, I heard the blues inside my head and wished the cost of getting permission to include the words of still-copyrighted songs wasn’t more than I could afford. Yet, the series of novels is built on the blues and the lives one led to understand and experience and play the blues. And, Ma Rainey.
As Wikipedia explains, The singer began performing as a teenager and became known as Ma Rainey after her marriage to Will Rainey, in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Her first recording was made in 1923. In the next five years, she made over 100 recordings, including “Bo-Weevil Blues” (1923), “Moonshine Blues” (1923), “See See Rider Blues” (1924), “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (1927), and “Soon This Morning” (1927).”
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” coming December 18th on Netflix. As I said on Facebook after seeing the trailer, Viola Davis appears to be exceptional in the role, one that’s quite a bit different than the character we saw in her TV show “How to Get Away With Murder.” Before any of you embarrass yourselves by asking why anyone would make a movie about Ma Rainey’s butt, I should point out that the title refers to a dance, not human anatomy even though Rainey’s persona and many of her songs radiated sex.
My fantasy while writing the four novels in the series was that Davis’ production company would find the books, put an option on them, and produce them with Davis playing the conjure woman. Seeing her in the Ma Rainey role tells me she would have been a very convincing Eulalie.
I’ve got my fingers crossed that the movie lives up to its trailer and the early reviews.