Monday, March 14, 2011

Women Who Followed Their Musical Dreams

March 14 - Today's post provided by Holly George-Warren
I originally interviewed Loretta Lynn for
Rolling Stone Magazine in 1994.

I bought Loretta Lynn’s cookbook
 at her recent concert.
I just participated in the celebration of Loretta Lynn’s golden anniversary as a country music performer: She and her band the Coal Miners performed in a beautiful old theater in upstate New York, as part of her 50th Anniversary Tour. At age 77, Loretta can still sing with power, and onstage she’s quite a pistol. Five decades ago, when she started her career with “Honky Tonk Girl,” a song she wrote and recorded for a small label, women performers were scarce in country music. In those days, record companies had the misconception that women, the primary record buyers at the time, only wanted to purchase discs by handsome male singers. Were they ever wrong! Loretta, then a young mother with four children (and later two more), proved that songs written from a woman’s point of view could be big-sellers. In 1961, she was inspired by the few female country artists, especially Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, who became stars by singing tunes penned by others. Not only could Loretta relate her experiences as a wife and mother by writing her own material, but she could make more money that way as well. She knew what it was like to be poor, growing up in a large family in Kentucky, with her father eking out a living as a coal miner. One of Loretta’s best songs, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” tells the story of her life. Without Loretta paving the way, there would be no Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift.

I interviewed Dale Evans, the Queen of the West, in 1999.
 I’ve been lucky to interview Loretta, as well as Kitty Wells, and another fantastic country singer, Tammy Wynette. All of them are featured in my book, Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music.  These women were also inspired by some of America’s first women entertainers: cowgirls. Singing cowgirls Patsy Montana and Dale Evans both had successful careers onstage, making records, and in the movies. When they started performing in the 1930s, it was frowned upon for women to travel alone, much less have a career in show business. Patsy, who was born Ruby Blevins in Arkansas, and Dale, born Lucille Smith in Texas, changed their names to become stars, first by performing on the radio. By taking on the image of the cowgirl, they portrayed independent gals who were headstrong and courageous. Their forebears were mothers and daughters who actually traveled west in the late 1800s and became experienced equestriennes. Some of these women joined Wild West shows and early rodeos to entertain audiences with their skills on horseback. I met both Dale Evans and Patsy Montana before they passed away, and they inspired me to tell their stories – and the history of women of the West – in my book, The Cowgirl Way. Another Western trailblazer who started her career dressed as a cowgirl is Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly. She grew up in Oklahoma and had her own radio show when she was only thirteen. While still in high school, she made her first record and had a country hit. But in 1954, on tour with Elvis Presley, Wanda fell in love with rock & roll and started singing rockin’ numbers like “Let’s Have a Party,” “Fujiyama Mama,” and “Hard-Headed Woman.”  I have seen Wanda, who’s now 73, perform all over the United States and she always thrills audiences – because she loves what she’s doing and is such a dynamo onstage.

Wanda Jackson joined me at my book signing at Yard Dog in Austin, Texas for
 Shake, Rattle & Roll in 2002 .
Wanda is featured in my book, Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll. Her new album, The Party Ain’t Over, recorded with Jack White (known for his band the White Stripes), has been getting rave reviews in such publications as the New York Times and Rolling Stone. Let’s hope a whole new generation of music fans will discover her high-octane sound! I once asked Wanda about her influence as an artist, and she said, “Through the years many girl artists have told me some really wonderful stories about how they got into music, and many times I played a major role in at least giving them the courage to do the music they felt in their soul – just the way I did.  And it’s always gratifying when you feel like you’ve influenced someone to follow her own dreams.”

Editor's Note:
Holly George-Warren is an award-winning writer, editor, book packager, producer, and music consultant.  Her music, writing, consulting and appearance credits are almost too numerous to mention! Visit her site at


  1. Wow, Holly! You've had such an interesting career. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us!

  2. Really enjoyed this post! Thanks.

  3. These titles are unfamiliar to me, so thanks for brining them to our attention. Whenever we do biographies in school, so mnay students want to learn more about singers and other musicians!