Pat Rainey, with a record in the shops and a show on the radio, sang at the Hotel Fensgate’s Satire Room.
We’ve visited the Fensgate twice this month, to meet George Bedoian, and to check out George Wein’s little club upstairs. As noted, the main room at the Fensgate in 1949 was the Satire Room, and that’s where you found Pat Rainey and her Rain-Beaus. Columnist George Clarke called her “Boston’s challenge to Lena Horne.”
Rainey’s career built steadily through the late 1940s. In 1947 she made a number of short films and soundies, including Reet, Petite, and Gone with Louis Jordan. Rainey has no real role in the film, all of a sudden she’s in the studio singing with Jordan’s band, but it was good exposure. In 1948, she sang with Dean Earl at Eddie’s and in November, for the first time at the Satire Room. Late that year Rainey recorded her only record, for Boston’s Gold Medal label, “Gotta Love You ‘Til I Die,” with Clarence Jackson’s group. Metronome and Billboard reviewed it, both grading it about average. Said Metronome: “Miss Rainey impresses us as an assured singer…she sings with little restraint and much emotion. But she is hindered by an unworthy accompaniment.”
March 1949 found her at the Fensgate, with a twice-weekly broadcast over WVOM. Then came East Coast tours with the Rain-Beaus (Dick Wetmore was one) for the William Morris Agency, and headlining at the Hi-Hat in September 1951.
In 1952 she went to New York and it was a disaster. She didn’t find much work, and she was introduced to narcotics, which led to one arrest in July 1952, and another in November. She was also arrested for soliciting. Rainey spent a month in custody and was finally released into the custody of her father, a top trial lawyer and the former corporation counsel for the City of Boston, in mid-December. Her career was in ruins.
It was George Wein, a man who believed in second chances, who gave her a break. He hired her at Storyville in March 1953 when illness forced June Christy to cancel. It went well. Other jobs followed, including the entire summer of 1953 at Playgoers, the restaurant attached to the Falmouth Playhouse on Cape Cod. Then Rainey went international.
In February 1954, Rainey opened at the Ringside Club in Paris and stayed for nine months. Then came the Kit Kat Club in Rome and dates in London and Scandinavia. She finally returned to Boston in 1956 but didn’t perform again until January 1959. She was one of the last to play the Hi-Hat before the fire that destroyed it.
In 1961 Rainey decided she’d had enough and left the music business, dropping from sight. Then in 1987 stories about Rainey appeared in the Boston papers. She was living in Worcester and working as a social worker. Turned out she felt more satisfaction in helping people than she ever had in entertaining them.
“Gotta Love You ‘Til I Die” is not on YouTube, but Reet, Petite, and Gone is, all 67 minutes of it. The song Rainey sings with Jordan’s band, “The Blues Ain’t Nothin’,” is at about the 22-minute mark.