Now in his eighties and still entertaining fans, Marvin Rainwater can look back on a long career that has included everything from rockabilly to pop music, and a persona that often took 100% advantage of the fact that he is 25% Cherokee. Although he is probably most remembered now for his 1957 country-pop hit, “Gonna Find Me a Bluebird,” that song reflects only one facet of his history in music.
Marvin Percy Rainwater grew up in Depression-era Kansas, but was able to study classical piano until an accidental hand injury as a teenager ended his keyboarding. By the time he joined the wartime Navy, he was transferring his musical efforts to playing guitar, singing, and songwriting, and once he was a civilian he began trying to make a profession of it.
Living in Virginia and working in spots around the nation’s capitol, Rainwater’s initial efforts including leading a small group that also featured a young Roy Clark, even then a talented instrumentalist on his way up. But Rainwater was the star, showcasing his strong voice along with the buckskins and headband that proclaimed his Cherokee heritage.
For a number of years he remained relatively unknown nationally although some of his best songs became hits for others, like Teresa Brewer’s version of “I Gotta Go Get My Baby.” (Although his is better — hear it below.) But in the mid-1950s Rainwater’s star began to rise, first from his many appearances with Arthur Godfrey, and then with a regular spot on Red Foley’s TV show, Ozark Jubilee. He even proved to be a good talent scout, introducing a young singer who would later become a legend — Brenda Lee.
Even though Rainwater continued to make records regularly, and in a variety of styles that sometimes confused fans, it was his “Gonna Find Me A Bluebird” that would eventually hit the charts in a big way, becoming his signature song. It would also be his high water mark, and in subsequent years he struggled to maintain popularity while at the same time fighting occasional voice strain from overwork. He had some periods of success before eventually retiring from active performing, but even now he is still singing for his fans from time to time.