Classic female blues was an early form of blues music, popular in the 1920s. An amalgam of traditional folk blues and urban theater music, the style is also known as vaudeville blues. Classic blues were performed by female vocalists accompanied by pianists or small jazz ensembles, and were the first blues to be recorded. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and the other singers of this genre were instrumental in spreading the popularity of the blues.
Blues, a form of black folk music originating in the American south, functioned until about 1900 mainly as vocal work songs.Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (1886–1939), known as the “Mother of the Blues”, is credited as the first to perform the blues on stage as popular entertainment when she began incorporating blues into her act of show songs and comedy around 1902. Rainey had heard a woman singing about the man she’d lost, learned the song, and began using it as her closing number, calling it “the blues". Rainey's example was followed by other young women who followed her path in the tent show circuit, one of the few venues available to black performers. Most were booked on the black-owned T.O.B.A. (Theatre Owners Booking Association) circuit.