Near the end of Act I, Ma Rainey “takes off her shoes, rubs her feet” and begins to sing about, yes, her feet and her barking corns. The lines are indeed from one of Ma’s songs: “These Dogs of Mine.”
Faedra noted, “[The song is] also known as ‘Famous Cornfield Blues’ and it was recorded for Paramount in Chicago in 1924. Here’s the only sound clip I could find. It doesn’t offer the lyrics in the script, but it can give you an idea of what it sounded like.”
She also shared an excerpt from Sandra Lieb’s Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey:
“This slow-paced by lively song is not a blues, and although the copywright claims Ma Rainey composed it, Thomas Dorsey recalls that it was performed [or at least a version of it] by minstrel groups in 1912:
Look-a here people, listen to me,
Believe me, I’m telling the truth;
If your corns hurt you, just like mine,
You’d say these same words too.
Out for a walk, I stopped to talk,
Oh how my corns did burn;
I had to keep on the shady side of the street,
To keep out the light of the sun.
Oh, Lordy, these dogs of mine,
They sure do worry me all the time;
The reason why—I don’t know,
Sometimes I soak ‘em in Sapolio.
Lord I beg to be excused,
I can’t wear me no sharp-toed shoes;
Oh, Lordy, how the sun do shine,
Down on these hounds of mine.”