In any case, let’s hope the new two-night blues festival named for the “Mother of the Blues” (her contemporary, Bessie Smith, was the “Empress of the Blues”) on Nov. 2-3 becomes an annual tradition as well as a successful fund-raising/sustaining effort for the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation.
Blues, as well as bluegrass and country — with a symphony orchestra thrown in for good measure — have a long performance history in Rome. The hills of lower Appalachia have long been alive with the sound of music.
And it may be getting louder again. The musical scene has really been perking up of late along Broad Street but it is even better to see new entertainment/activity events being created. You know a downtown scene “has arrived” when there is always something going on to do.
As for Ma Rainey herself, something tells us the DeSoto won’t have loudspeakers set up blaring forth “Prove It on Me” or soon stage the recent hit Broadway play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Nor is her connection to Rome all that historically solid although many biographies say she owned/operated theaters here and died in Rome in 1939. Columbus, where she was born and grew up, similarly argues she died there ... and it actually built a museum to her in the old homeplace.
There is no disputing that this part of the country gave birth to a lot of those great, original female blues artists that broke so much ground that survives in the popular music of today. Bessie Smith, Ma’s protégé, was from Chattanooga and Ida Cox, billed as “Uncrowned Queen of the Blues” who recorded from 1923 to 1961, grew up singing in Cedartown’s African Methodist Church and then ran away in her teens with a minstrel show.
Good to see the sound coming back home and here’s wishing it a successful revival along Broad Street.