The Women of Country Music

The Women of Country Music: A Reader

CHARLES K. WOLFE
JAMES E. AKENSON
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jh7f
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  • Book Info
    The Women of Country Music
    Book Description:

    Women have been pivotal in the country music scene since its inception, as Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson make clear inThe Women of Country Music. Their groundbreaking volume presents the best current scholarship and writing on female country musicians. Beginning with the 1920s career of teenage guitar picker Roba Stanley, the contributors go on to discuss Polly Jenkins and Her Musical Plowboys, 50s honky-tonker Rose Lee Maphis, superstar Faith Hill, the relationship between Emmylou Harris and poet Bronwen Wallace, the Louisiana Hayride's Margaret Lewis Warwick, and more.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5773-3
    Subjects: History, Music, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-x)

    This publication marks our fourth annual effort to collect modern country music scholarship in book form under the auspices of the University Press of Kentucky. Starting with this volume, theCountry Music Annualtitle will no longer be used, as it suggests a certain point in time and does not really reflect the timelessness of the discussions inCountry Music Annual 2000, 2001,and2002.The eclectic nature of these threeAnnualswill be replaced with this volume as a thematically oriented series. We hope that this sharper focus will allow an exploration of one subject in greater depth and...

  4. POLLY JENKINS AND HER MUSICAL PLOWBOYS: A VAUDEVILLE VALEDICTORY
    (pp. 1-17)
    Wayne W. Daniel

    Vaudeville was America’s most popular form of entertainment for some fifty years following the 1881 debut of the first variety show suitable for a “double audience” (suitable for both men and women) at Tony Pastor’s Fourteenth Street house in Tammany Hall, New York.¹ By the early 1930s, the end was in sight for this American institution, as showbusiness moguls began lamenting its untimely death. For vaudeville’s demise, they blamed not so much the Great Depression, as one might expect, but rather the competing entertainment media, specifically radio and motion pictures.² As movies and radio became the favorite sources of entertainment...

  5. “AND NO MAN SHALL CONTROL ME”: THE STRANGE CASE OF ROBA STANLEY, COUNTRY’S FIRST WOMAN RECORDING STAR
    (pp. 18-29)
    Charles Wolfe

    They came into the jury-rigged temporary studio one hot morning in Atlanta. It was August 26, 1924, barely a year after Fiddlin’ John Carson had in the same studio recorded “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane,” the record historians now acclaim as the “first” country record. It was also three years before Sara and Maybelle Carter would stand before the microphone in the famed Bristol sessions; nine years before Patsy Montana would join forces with the Prairie Ramblers to become the country’s first million-selling female singer; twenty-eight years away from the day Kitty Wells would change the face...

  6. “DO YOU WANT MUSTARD?” “YUP!”: FIRST LADY OF BANJO RONI STONEMAN
    (pp. 30-45)
    Ellen Wright

    On her birth certificate, dated May 5, 1938, she is identified only as a female and the seventeenth Stoneman child. It would be a few months before her harassed parents decided what to call her. But the reticent birth certificate actually turns out to indicate quite a lot about the future direction of the life and personality of Veronica Loretta “Roni” Stoneman. As a Stoneman, she would be part of an important musical tradition. As the seventeenth child, she would benefit from the expert instruction of her older siblings and eventually come to be known as the “First Lady of...

  7. GETTING THE WORD OUT: THE COUNTRY OF BRONWEN WALLACE AND EMMYLOU HARRIS
    (pp. 46-60)
    Gloria Nixon-John

    First off, let me admit that I am not a country music aficionado. My early exposure to country music was limited to songs that my Italian father played on his mandolin, songs that he learned from friends he made while working in the coalmines of West Virginia in the early 1930s. (My father’s renditions of “You Are My Sunshine” or “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in his thick Italian accent indeed constituted a genre unto itself.) The only other country songs I heard while growing up were the songs that made their way onto the pop charts. It was the poetry of...

  8. ROSE LEE MAPHIS AND WORKING ON BARN DANCE RADIO, 1930–1960
    (pp. 61-74)
    Kristine McCusker

    Doris Schetrompf was fifteen years old in 1939 when she appeared for the first time on a barn dance radio program, an urban-based radio genre that featured rural music. She remembered, “Just about every station had their own hillbillies,” citing the four such stations in hometown Hagerstown, Maryland, alone. At her first performance, she remembered that the producer asked her, “What are you going to use for your name and I said I don’t know. So can’t you just see Doris Schetrompf?” The producer named her “Rose of the Mountains” for the rose she wore in her hair, and her...

  9. “RECONSIDER ME”: MARGARET LEWIS WARWICK AND THE LOUISIANA HAYRIDE
    (pp. 75-87)
    Tracey E. W. Laird

    Under the egg crates, two women write. In 1959, Margaret Lewis and Mira Smith composed “From the Cradle to the Blues” in Shreveport, Louisiana. Ten years later, in Nashville, the two women wrote “Reconsider Me.” There are several different ways that these two songs might be used to tell stories about country music. One story might tell of an invisible drain that sucked talent from Shreveport to Nashville throughout the 1950s. Like many musicians and musical entrepreneurs before them, Lewis and Smith honed their skills in Shreveport and then migrated to the citadel of country music, where success was more...

  10. HOME TO RENFRO VALLEY: JOHN LAIR AND THE WOMEN OF THE BARN DANCE
    (pp. 88-108)
    Michael Ann Williams

    John Lair’s contributions to the development of country music are indisputable. In his role at the Chicago radio station WLS and later with his ownRenfro Valley Barn Dance,Lair helped define the radio barn dances of the 1930s and 1940s. Lair transcended the aural nature of radio, constructing a mythical hometown not only on air, but also as a physical entity in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. As country music’s first autotourism site, during its heydayRenfro Valleybrought in larger live audiences than any other radio barn dance. Although never elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame himself, Lair...

  11. THE VOICE BEHIND THE SONG: FAITH HILL, COUNTRY MUSIC, AND REFLEXIVE IDENTITY
    (pp. 109-130)
    Jocelyn Neal

    In recent years, singer Faith Hill has taken both the country and pop music industries by storm, winning awards from most of the major music organizations, touring to sold-out arenas, airing television specials, and commanding astronomical fees for appearances.² All of her albums have been certified multi-platinum; her most recent album debuted at the top of theBillboardalbum charts, selling nearly twice as many units in its first week as her previous album had.³ Meanwhile, fans and journalists alike have scrutinized and criticized the music on those albums regarding its place within the genre of contemporary country. The discussion...

  12. THE COW THAT’S UGLY HAS THE SWEETEST MILK
    (pp. 131-147)
    Rebecca Thomas

    In his sermon to a Nashville congregation, the nineteenth-century evangelist Samuel Porter Jones taunted the town mothers that it would be better for their tender daughters to join with the town’s Negro men than with their beer-guzzling, card-playing, back-sliding beaus (Eiland 8). The good reverend hit his mark. They were galled. As the birthing bed of the Ku Klux Klan, Nashville projected the sentiment of most southern cities and towns by assuming the separation of races above all other matters. In the first decades of the twentieth century, as the Klan renewed its commitment to white supremacy, white communities expanded...

  13. WOMEN IN TEXAS MUSIC: A CONVERSATION WITH THE TEXANA DAMES
    (pp. 148-160)
    Kathleen Hudson

    Texas music contains the voices of many women. Once relegated to the role of backup singers, women have stepped into the new spaces that have opened up. Some women led the way in this revolution, and some still feel they are relegated to a backup role. The Texana Dames, originally from Lubbock, Texas, are forerunners. They began playing music as a family, the Supernatural Family Band. As the family evolved and changed, so did the music.

    Speaking to women in music today, one finds that old attitudes still prevail, even as new steps are being taken. Ms. Lavelle White feels...

  14. IF YOU’RE NOT IN IT FOR LOVE: CANADIAN WOMEN IN COUNTRY MUSIC
    (pp. 161-185)
    Linda Jean Daniel

    The following article is based on data gathered for a doctoral thesis entitledSinging Out! Canadian Women in Country Music.It explores the experiences of thirty Canadian women country music singers in order to learn more about women’s lives as performers. Since the number of artists is actually much greater than most sources would suggest, the data collected here will merely begin to provide more knowledge about the present situation of Canadian women and country music.

    Field research in the form of interviews and questionnaires generated the major data. While this essay presents mainly qualitative work, some of the information...

  15. THE YODELING COWGIRLS: AUSTRALIAN WOMEN AND COUNTRY MUSIC
    (pp. 186-201)
    Andrew Smith

    They dressed in fancy western clothing, wore wide-brimmed cowboy hats, played guitars and yodeled, just like their American counterparts. More often than not, they grew up on farms in eastern Australia, where their parents and neighbors listened to country music on the radio and on 78-rpm discs. Keen to be part of a burgeoning local country-music industry that was largely based on recordings from the United States, they sang of prairies, of gray-haired mothers, of cabins in the pines, and of faithful old dogs. Some became recording stars, but sadly others missed out on commercial recognition. Lamentably, most had their...

  16. TEACHING ABOUT WOMEN IN COUNTRY MUSIC
    (pp. 202-226)
    James Akenson

    In the introduction toFinding Her Voice: The Saga of Women in Country Music(1993), Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann write: “The story of women in country music is a window into the world of the majority of American women. It describes poverty, hardship, economic exploitation, sexual subjugation, and limited opportunities. Sometimes it is selfdefeating and reactionary, painful and despairing. But it also contains outspoken protest and joyful rebellion, shouts of exaltation and bugle calls of freedom. There is humor as well as sadness here, victory as well as heartache. The history of women’s country music reveals a...

  17. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 227-230)