Marvin Rainwater, Rockabilly Hall of Famer

  Marvin Rainwater in 1950s publicity photo

If you do Rainwater genealogical research for any length of time, you eventually run into rockabilly legend, Marvin Rainwater.

Marvin was born in Wichita, Kansas on July 2, 1925. As a child, he studied classical piano, and listened to the Grand Ole Opry, giving him a rich musical background. During a stint in the navy during World War II, he took up guitar. Influenced by Roy Acuff, Marvin cut several demos for 4 Star Records with fellow guitarist Roy Clark. His big break came in 1955, when he his warm baritone voice won him first place on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts radio show. Marvin became something of a rockabilly legend in the 1950s, but went into a temporary retirement when he developed problems with his vocal cords in the 1960s. He has recorded sporadically since then, and is still living. He was the 73rd inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is most associated with the song “Gonna Find Me A Bluebird,” recordings of which can be found on YouTube.com.

Of Mr. Rainwater’s lineage, squidoo.com (now offline) said this:
Respected country song writer and performer Marvin Rainwater was born on 2nd July 1925 as Marvin Karleton Percy. He took stage name of Marvin Rainwater to show his love for his mother, Stella, whose maiden name was Rainwater. He always showed his pride in his rich Cherokee heritage by wearing colorful and native dress while performing.

So was he a Rainwater or a Percy? As it turns out, a Rainwater.

An article from the 21 June 1981 edition Tri-City Herald of Boise, Idaho entitled "Idaho Cook Tries to Pass as Country-Western Singer" clears up this mystery nicely, naming Marvin’s father as C. P. Rainwater. The article described C. P. as an 85-year-old living in Jacksonville, Alabama, and his mother Stella, as an 80-year-old living in Culpepper, Virginia. Marvin’s sister Patty’s webpage calls their parents Percy and Stella Rainwater.

A little detective work reveals the following: Cicero Percy Rainwater, Marvin’s father, was born in December 1895 in Georgia, the son of Pinkney Richard Rainwater and Parthenia Carrie Pool. He can be found in his parents’ 1900 and 1910 households in Georgia. On 3 December 1917, he married Stella Arbel Miller, the daughter of Henry Miller and Emma Lorne, in Cleburne Co., Alabama.1 Percy and his wife had moved to Clark Co., Kansas by 1920,2 and Tennessee by 1930,3 and eventually to Oklahoma. They had at least five children: Donald, b. ca 1921; Marvin, b. 1925; Ray, b. ca 1928; Patty and Bob, both born after 1930. The marriage ended in divorce.

Lauded by her son as "The Alabama Angel", Stella Rainwater passed away on 3 May 1987, in Occoquan, Prince William Co., VA. Marvin died on 17 Sep 2013 in Aitkin, MN.

Other websites and articles
Marvin’s official website
Marvin’s biography at Wikipedia
Marvin’ albums at Amazon.com
Marvin’s 1998 interview with Minnesota Public Radio
"Sun shines on Marvin Rainwater: country singer finds his bluebird", The Milwaukee Journal, 1 Sep 1957

1 This information was provided to me by Marvin, himself.
2 1920 census, Cimmaron Twp., Clark Co., KS, pg 268
3 1930 census, Collegedale, Hamilton Co., TN, pg 268B