Object of the Day

Royalty Agreement for "Walking Blues" by Ma Rainey

April 26 Often referred to as the “Mother of Blues,” singer Gertrude Pridgett, better known as Ma Rainey, was (possibly) born on this day in 1886. Ma Rainey was one of the first professional African American blues singers, and among the first African American women to record. This royalty agreement pertains to “Walking Blues,” one of the songs recorded in Ma Rainey’s first recording session with Paramount Records in 1923.

Royalty Agreement for "Walking Blues"

Description (Brief)

This printed, typed, and hand-written document is the Chicago Music Publishing Company's royalty agreement for the song "Walking Blues" by composers Gertrude "Ma" Rainey and Lovie Austin. The document was signed by the composers and witnessed and signed by the A&R (Artists and Repertoire) representative, J. Mayo Williams, on December 12, 1923. As per the agreement, Rainey and Austin would receive “two cents for each printed pianoforte copy of the said work sold by the PUBLISHER in the United States and Canada only,” as well as “a sum equal to one-fourth of any and all royalties that the PUBLISHER shall actually receive from the use of said musical composition for mechanical reproduction less ten per cent (10%) for cost of collection in the form of all player rolls, records, discs, or other mechanical reproduction of the musical composition.”

Gertrude"Ma" Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, 1886-1939) was a pioneering African American blues singer and entertainer, who became known as "The Mother of the Blues." Early in her career, Rainey was popular on the theatrical circuit known as TOBA (Theater Owners Booking Association). Between 1923 and 1928, she made more than 100 recordings for her record label, Paramount. Rainey continued to tour and record up to her retirement in 1935.

Data Source
National Museum of American History
Rainey, Ma
Austin, Lovey
Chicago Music Publishing Company
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 11 in x 8 1/2 in; 27.94 cm x 21.59 cm
Object Name
Royalty Agreement for 'Walking Blues'