Born into a family of performers she entered show business in 1900, working in vaudeville in a seedy section of Atlanta near Sweet Auburn. Decatur Street, at that time, was considered a "street of shame," with prostitutes, cheap liquor and blues. It was here that she met "Georgia Tom" Dorsey, a Villa Rica born pianist, and Hudson "Tampa Red" Whittaker, who would later team with her repeatedly. In 1902 she married "Pa" Rainey, eventually signing a contract with Paramount, who billed her as the "Mother of the Blues." Ironically, by this time she had divorced "Pa" Rainey. Recording more than a hundred tracks in less than 5 years, Rainey invested her money in various businesses in Georgia. After her career ended, she returned to Georgia to manage these endeavors. She died of a heart attack.