Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Revised and Updated for 2009

While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories.

This is a look back at the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category. It was first awarded in 1965, an included single competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks.

I’ve often made the case that female artists were making the best music in the 1990s, and the Grammys did a great job nominating songs and albums that were ignored at the CMA and ACM awards, which is not surprising, given that those shows have so few categories that are actually for songs and albums.

As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back.

2009

  • Martina McBride, “For These Times”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “What I Cannot Change”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Last Name”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “Last Call”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “This is Me You’re Talking To”

This year’s lineup includes three former winners and two women looking for their first victory in this category. Martina McBride is in the running for the eighth time in fifteen years, and with one of her more understated performances. Lee Ann Womack returns for a fifth time, having received a nomination for the lead single of her five most recent albums. Both ladies turned in good performances here, but they’ve been overlooked for records bigger and better, so they’re not likely to snap their losing streaks this time around.

As for the previous winners, LeAnn Rimes earned her third consecutive nod, bringing her total to five in this category. She hasn’t won since 1997, when she took home the award for “Blue.” If enough voters hear “What I Cannot Change,” she might have a shot, though the only version of the song that’s been a legitimate hit has been the dance remix.

Trisha Yearwood won in 1998 for “How Do I Live,” her only victory to date. But she’s earned her tenth nomination for “This is Me You’re Talking To,” which is arguably her strongest vocal performance of the ten. Like Rimes, the challenge is getting enough voters to listen to it, but she’s never been more deserving of the victory than she is this year.

Still, the favorite remains Carrie Underwood. She’s quickly become a favorite with Grammy voters, having won this category two years running, along with Best New Artist in 2007. She’s the nominee with the highest profile, and while “Last Name” is nowhere near the same league of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats” in terms of artistry or impact, it was a big hit, something that the other four entries cannot claim.

If Underwood was nominated for “Just a Dream,” she’d have a mortal lock on this one. But the strength of the other nominees will at least keep this race competitive. If Underwood prevails, Grammy queen Alison Krauss better watch her back.

2008

  • Alison Krauss, “Simple Love”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Famous in a Small Town”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “Nothin’ Better to Do”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love”

Looking at this lineup, you’d think that it was a golden age of female country artists, something akin to the mid-nineties. In reality, only one of these songs was a big radio hit, though three others managed to go top twenty. In terms of quality, however, this is the most consistent and thoroughly wonderful set of nominees this category has seen this century.  You’d have to go back to exactly 1999 to find a better lineup.

In a year when any winner would have been deserving, Underwood won for “Before He Cheats,” her second straight win for a signature mega-hit from her debut album.

2007

  • Miranda Lambert, “Kerosene”
  • Martina McBride, “I Still Miss Someone”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “Something’s Gotta Give”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”
  • Gretchen Wilson, “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today”

Carrie Underwood’s award show golden streak capped off its inaugural year with two big wins at the Grammy awards: Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. It wasn’t the first time a country artist won both awards – LeAnn Rimes did so exactly ten years earlier – but Rimes didn’t do so on the heels of huge ACM and CMA wins. Underwood’s dominance out of the gate was truly unprecedented.

2006

  • Emmylou Harris, “The Connection”
  • Faith Hill, “Mississippi Girl”
  • Gretchen Wilson, “All Jacked Up”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “I May Hate Myself In The Morning”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Georgia Rain”

Emmylou Harris has been nominated for many obscure tracks in this category. This time, she actually won with one. “The Connection” was a new recording tacked on the end of a career-spanning compilation. It managed to triumph over a comeback hit from fellow Grammy favorite Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack’s CMA winner for Single of the Year.

2005

  • Alison Krauss, “You Will Be My Ain True Love”
  • Loretta Lynn, “Miss Being Mrs.”
  • Martina McBride, “In My Daughter’s Eyes”
  • Shania Twain, “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
  • Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman”

Grammy voters have often honored new female artists for their debut singles. Gretchen Wilson’s win for her wildly popular “Redneck Woman” puts her in the company of Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, K.T. Oslin, Donna Fargo, Jeannie C. Riley, Jeannie Seely and Jody Miller. To date, only Underwood and Oslin have managed to win in the category again.

2004

  • June Carter Cash, “Keep On the Sunny Side”
  • Patty Loveless, “On Your Way Home”
  • Martina McBride, “This One’s For the Girls”
  • Dolly Parton, “I’m Gone”
  • Shania Twain, “Forever and For Always”

Cash would’ve had a great shot if she was still alive, but dying the previous year clinched it. It’s worth noting that Twain and Loveless are cited for performances that rank among their best work.  “I’m Gone” was Dolly Parton’s eighteenth nomination in this category.

2003

  • Faith Hill, “Cry”
  • Martina McBride, “Blessed”
  • Dolly Parton, “Dagger Through the Heart”
  • Lucinda Williams, “Lately”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “Something Worth Leaving Behind”

The pop production “Cry” may have caused a backlash for Faith Hill among country radio programmers, but Grammy voters continued to embrace her.   Hill is often underrated among critics, but her ability to find great songs from unknown singer-songwriters is excellent.  She plucked Angie Aparo out of obscurity when she cut this.  His moody original is worth seeking out.

2002

  • Sheryl Crow, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”
  • Jamie O’Neal, “There Is No Arizona”
  • Dolly Parton, “Shine”
  • Lucinda Williams, “Cold, Cold Heart”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway”

Parton won for one of her most ambitious recordings, reworking a Collective Soul rock smash into a spiritual mountain hymn. While she’d been nominated quite a few times, this was Parton’s first victory in this race since 1981.

2001

  • Faith Hill, “Breathe”
  • Jo Dee Messina, “That’s the Way”
  • Dolly Parton, “Travelin’ Prayer”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Real Live Woman”

Yearwood’s song is among the best of her storied catalog, and Womack was in the running for her career record, but Faith Hill’s biggest hit was unstoppable.  Standing in the shadow of Shania Twain, it was easy to overlook Hill’s own impressive sales numbers, but Breathe is the fourth biggest-selling studio album ever by a female country artist.  With eight million copies sold, it trails three albums of Twain’s.

2000

  • Emmylou Harris, “Ordinary Heart”
  • Faith Hill, “Let Me Let Go”
  • Alison Krauss, “Forget About It”
  • Martina McBride, “I Love You”
  • Shania Twain, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

Her loss in the Best Country Album category the previous year allowed for more tracks from Come On Over to be eligible in 2000, and Twain repeated with the opening cut of that mammothly successful project.

1999

  • Emmylou Harris, “Love Still Remains”
  • Faith Hill, “This Kiss”
  • Shania Twain, “You’re Still the One”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “A Little Past Little Rock”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “There Goes My Baby”

Twain’s ballad was nominated in the general Record and Song categories, and also won for Best Country Song. Here, she won over a very strong lineup. I’m most impressed that NARAS cited “Love Still Remains,” Harris’ gorgeous contribution to a low-profile Kate Wolf tribute.  That set also included a great track from Kathy Mattea.

1998

  • Deana Carter, “Did I Shave My Legs For This?
  • Patty Loveless, “The Trouble With the Truth”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “How Do I Live”
  • Pam Tillis, “All the Good Ones are Gone”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “How Do I Live”

Yearwood took home the Grammy in the infamous “How Do I Live” showdown, leaving Rimes’ tepid version in the dust. Pop fans only familiar with Rimes’s performance must have been confused when Yearwood won the award, only moments after Rimes had performed the song on the telecast.

1997

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Let Me Into Your Heart”
  • Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine”
  • Alison Krauss, “Baby Mine”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “Blue”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)”

LeAnn Rimes”s vocal performance on “Blue,” along with the retro charm of the composition and the media fascination about her precocious talent, added up to two Grammy victories in 1997.  In addition to this award, she was also named Best New Artist.

1996

  • Alison Krauss, “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You”
  • Patty Loveless, “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”
  • Martina McBride, “Safe in the Arms of Love”
  • Pam Tillis, “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)”
  • Shania Twain, “Any Man of Mine”

Alison Krauss turned the schlocky sixties pop hit into a devastating plea of devotion.   Her Foundations cover triumphed over four top five country hits, despite peaking outside of the top forty during its chart run.   Such a feat would become more common, but this was the first time in the category’s history that the winning track was not a top ten radio hit.

1995

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Shut Up and Kiss Me”
  • Patty Loveless, “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye”
  • Martina McBride, “Independence Day”
  • Reba McEntire, “She Thinks His Name Was John”
  • Wynonna, “Is It Over Yet”

It’s hard to believe that Reba McEntire and Wynonna haven’t been nominated in this category since 1995, given that both women have remained prominent on the charts and in the media. This was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s fourth consecutive victory in this category, a record that has yet to be seriously threatened, despite a couple of back-t0-back wins from Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain.

1994

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Passionate Kisses”
  • Emmylou Harris, “High Powered Love”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Soon”
  • Wynonna, “Only Love”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Walkaway Joe”

Carpenter’s third win in this category was her only victory for a song she didn’t write. “Passionate Kisses” was penned by Lucinda Williams, and it earned her the Grammy for Best Country Song the same evening.

1993

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I Feel Lucky”
  • Reba McEntire, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”
  • Lorrie Morgan, “Something In Red”
  • Pam Tillis, “Maybe It Was Memphis”
  • Wynonna, Wynonna

This is the last year that an album was nominated with individual tracks, though they were still eligible in 1994. McEntire, Morgan and Tillis are represented with signature performances, and Chapin’s wry sense of humor was firmly established with her victorious hit, “I Feel Lucky.”

1992

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Down at the Twist & Shout”
  • Kathy Mattea, Time Passes By
  • Reba McEntire, For My Broken Heart
  • Tanya Tucker, “Down to My Last Teardrop”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “She’s in Love With the Boy”

Despite being known as an introspective songwriter, Mary Chapin Carpenter won her first Grammy for a Cajun dance romp. This trend would continue, as all four of her victories in this category would be for uptempo hits.  McEntire’s album was recorded in the wake of the plane crash that killed several band members and her road manager, while fresh-faced Yearwood was nominated for her debut single.

1991

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Quittin’ Time”
  • Carlene Carter, I Fell in Love
  • Kathy Mattea, “Where’ve You Been”
  • Reba McEntire, “You Lie”
  • K.T. Oslin, “Come Next Monday”

In addition to sweeping the industry awards for Song of the Year, “Where’ve You Been” earned its singer her first Grammy. Kathy Mattea would go on to win another Grammy for her Christmas album, and is a nominee this year for Coal, a collection of mining songs.

1990

  • Rosanne Cash, “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”
  • Emmylou Harris, Bluebird
  • k.d. lang, Absolute Torch & Twang
  • Kathy Mattea, Willow in the Wind
  • Dolly Parton, “Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That”

k.d. lang’s first and only win in this category is also the last time the Grammy went to a full-length album. While Parton would return to this category at the turn of the century and be cited for four consecutive years, this would be her last nomination for a big radio hit.

1989

  • Emmylou Harris, “Back in Baby’s Arms”
  • k.d. lang, “I’m Down to My Last Cigarette”
  • Reba McEntire, Reba
  • K.T. Oslin, “Hold Me”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Strong Enough to Bend”

K.T. Oslin won for the second year in a row, the first woman in history to earn consecutive victories in this category. This time, her win was for her #1 hit “Hold Me.”  The unconventionally structured composition also earned her a Grammy for Best Country Song.

1988

  • Rosanne Cash, King’s Record Shop
  • Emmylou Harris, Angel Band
  • Reba McEntire, “The Last One to Know”
  • K.T. Oslin, “80’s Ladies”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Love Me Like You Used To”

K.T. Osln was the queen of the awards show circuit in the late eighties, winning several Grammy, CMA and ACM awards for her first two albums. She won her first Grammy for her breakthrough hit “80′s Ladies”, which was also the first song written by a woman to win the CMA award for Song of the Year.

1987

  • Holly Dunn, “Daddy’s Hands”
  • Crystal Gayle, “Cry”
  • Emmylou Harris, “Today I Started Loving You Again”
  • Kathy Mattea, “Love at the Five & Dime”
  • Reba McEntire, “Whoever’s in New England”

McEntire has been showered with Female Vocalist awards, winning seven from the ACM, four from the CMA and twelve American Music Awards in that category. That dominance did not carry over to the Grammy Awards, who honored her only once in this race.   “Whoever’s in New England” was a career record for McEntire, pushing her to gold album sales, contributing to her CMA Entertainer of the Year victory, turning her into a video star and earning her a Grammy. She has won only one more Grammy in the years since: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Does He Love You”, a duet with Linda Davis.

1986

  • Rosanne Cash, “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me”
  • Janie Fricke, “She’s Single Again”
  • Emmylou Harris, The Ballad of Sally Rose
  • Juice Newton, “You Make Me Want To Make You Mine”
  • Dolly Parton, Real Love

In one of the best twists in Grammy history, Cash started writing the tongue-in-cheek “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me” as she drove home from the 1983 Grammys, inspired by her loss to Juice Newton three years earlier. The song inspired by a Grammy loss resulted in her sole Grammy victory. 

1985

  • Janie Fricke, “Your Heart’s Not in It”
  • Crystal Gayle, “The Sound of Goodbye”
  • Emmylou Harris, “In My Dreams”
  • Anne Murray, Heart Over Mind
  • Dolly Parton, “Tennessee Homesick Blues”

Against a field of pop-flavored hits, the relatively country “In My Dreams” was Emmylou Harris’ third victory in this category, tying Anne Murray’s winning record in this field.

1984

  • Deborah Allen, “Baby I Lied”
  • Crystal Gayle, “Baby What About You”
  • Emmylou Harris, Last Date
  • Anne Murray, “A Little Good News”
  • Dolly Parton, Burlap and Satin

Murray’s topical hit was adopted by Vice President Bush on the campaign trail later that year.   Murray’s victory was her third in this category, breaking a tie with Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette for the most victories in this race to date. “A Little Good News” also earned Murray her only CMA awards, winning Single and Album in the fall of 1984.

1983

  • Rosanne Cash, “Ain’t No Money”
  • Emmylou Harris, Cimarron
  • Juice Newton, “Break it to Me Gently”
  • Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You”
  • Sylvia, “Nobody”

Juice Newton had as much success on the pop charts as she did on the country charts, and her first Grammy nomination was in the pop field. But her only victory was for “Break it to Me Gently,” which was one of her biggest country hits, in addition to being a crossover smash.

1982

  • Rosanne Cash, Seven Year Ache
  • Terri Gibbs, Somebody’s Knockin’
  • Barbara Mandrell, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”
  • Juice Newton, “Queen of Hearts”
  • Dolly Parton, “9 to 5″

Dolly Parton didn’t start winning Grammys until pop radio started spinning her records.   But while her first pop hits were penned by other writers, “9 to 5″ came from her own pen. Not only did it earn her the Female Country Grammy, it also won Best Country Song, the first time that award went to a female writer.

1981

  • Crystal Gayle, “If You Ever Change Your Mind”
  • Emmylou Harris, Roses in the Snow
  • Barbara Mandrell, “The Best of Strangers”
  • Anne Murray, “Could I Have This Dance”
  • Sissy Spacek, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”

Orginally intended to be a duet with Kenny Rogers, Murray recorded the male lead part and her own harmony on the demo tape. To her surprise, the label decided to release the record that way when the deal with Rogers fell through. Despite Murray singing in a lower register than she was known for, it became one of her biggest hits, earning her another Grammy to boot.

1980

  • Crystal Gayle, We Should Be Together
  • Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl
  • Brenda Lee, “Tell Me What It’s Like”
  • Barbara Mandrell, Just For the Record
  • Billie Jo Spears, “I Will Survive”

Emmylou Harris’s second victory in this category came for her fifth studio album, which was an intentional attempt at making a pure, traditional country album. The title cut was an old Loretta Lynn hit, which had also served as the title cut for Lynn’s fourth studio album back in 1965.

dolly-here-you-come1979

  • Crystal Gayle, Talking in Your Sleep
  • Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
  • Barbara Mandrell, “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed”
  • Anne Murray, “Walk Right Back”
  • Dolly Parton, Here You Come Again

After ten Grammy losses in various categories, Parton finally picked up her first win with her first platinum-selling album. The title cut was a crossover hit, and the album also included such Parton standards as “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right” and “Two Doors Down.”

1978

  • Janie Fricke, “What’re You Doing Tonight”
  • Crystal Gayle, “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue”
  • Emmylou Harris, “Making Believe”
  • Barbara Mandrell, “After the Lovin’”
  • Dolly Parton, “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher”

Crystal Gayle followed in her big sister’s footsteps to country stardom. But while Loretta Lynn had never emerged victorious in this category, her little sister did, thanks to her omnipresent hit “Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”

1977

  • Crystal Gayle, “I’ll Get Over You”
  • Emmylou Harris, Elite Hotel
  • Dolly Parton, All I Can Do
  • Mary Kay Place, Tonite! At the Capri Lounge, Loretta Naggers
  • Tammy Wynette, “‘Til I Can Make It on My Own”

Tammy Wynette’s final nomination in this category was for one of her biggest hits, and she was the only former winner among the five nominees.  The trophy went to fellow future Hall of Famer Emmylou Harris for her sophomore set, Elite Hotel. Country Grammy king Vince Gill has often cited this Harris set as one of the best country albums of all-time.

1976

  • Jessi Colter, “I’m Not Lisa”
  • Emmylou Harris, “If I Could Only Win Your Love”
  • Loretta Lynn, “The Pill”
  • Dolly Parton, “Jolene (Live in Concert)”
  • Linda Ronstadt, “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)”

Emmylou Harris didn’t win the trophy this year, but she did contribute to the winning entry. Before achieving stardom herself, Harris recorded the harmony vocal to Linda Ronstadt’s cover of a Hank Williams classic. Harris and Ronstadt would go on to win two more Grammys for harmonizing with each other, with a little help from Dolly Parton.

1975

  • Anne Murray, “Love Song”
  • Dolly Parton, “Jolene”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)”
  • Dottie West, “Last Time I Saw Him”
  • Tammy Wynette, “Woman to Woman”

Anne Murray continued the imported winner trend begun the previous year with Olivia Newton-John, though her home of  Canada was quite a bit closer to Nashville than Newton-John’s Australia. Murray would go on to become a Grammy favorite, winning awards in both the country and pop fields.

1974

  • Barbara Fairchild, “Teddy Bear Song”
  • Olivia Newton-John, “Let Me Be There”
  • Marie Osmond, “Paper Roses”
  • Dottie West, “Country Sunshine”
  • Tammy Wynette, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”

Despite the controversy created by Olivia Newton-John’s victory, she won for a legitimately country record, her first of several top ten country hits. The following year, she would win Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “I Honestly Love You”, becoming the first of four women to win both the Pop and Country vocalist trophies. The feat was later accomplished by Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt, and k.d. lang.

donna-fargo1973

  • Skeeter Davis, “One Tin Soldier”
  • Donna Fargo, “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”
  • Loretta Lynn, “One’s on the Way”
  • Dolly Parton, “Touch Your Woman”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Delta Dawn”
  • Tammy Wynette, “My Man”

Donna Fargo’s infectious hit won her the CMA for Single of the Year, in addition to earning her a Grammy. It was one of two million-selling singles from her debut album of the same name. The second, “Funny Face,” was also a crossover hit but was overlooked at the award shows in favor of its predecessor.

sammi-smith1972

  • Lynn Anderson, “How Can I Unlove You”
  • Jody Miller, “He’s So Fine”
  • Dolly Parton, “Joshua”
  • Sammi Smith, “Help Me Make it Through the Night”
  • Tammy Wynette, “Good Lovin’ (Makes it Right)”

Kris Kristofferson penned Grammy-winning hits for Ronnie Milsap and Ray Price, in addition to  Sammi Smith. But it was the Smith hit that earned him the Grammy for Best Country Song, where he defeated a field that included two more of his own compositions.

1971

  • Lynn Anderson, “Rose Garden”
  • Wanda Jackson, “A Woman Lives For Love”
  • Dolly Parton, “Mule Skinner Blues”
  • Jean Shepard, “Then He Touched Me”
  • Tammy Wynette, “Run, Woman, Run”

Even back in the early days of the Grammys, the organization was already acknowledging veteran artists, with pioneers Wanda Jackson and Jean Shepard scoring nods alongside those hot new hitmakers Dolly Parton and Lynn Anderson. The latter’s million-selling hit remains her signature song. 

1970

  • Lynn Anderson, “That’s a No No”
  • Jeannie C. Riley, “Back Side of Dallas”
  • Connie Smith, “Ribbon of Darkness”
  • Diana Trask, “I Fall to Pieces”
  • Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man”

Two great performances by Connie Smith and Jeannie C. Riley were nominated this year, but both were overshadowed by the massive Tammy Wynette hit “Stand By Your Man.”  Wynette made history twice this year, becoming both the first woman to achieve two victories in this category and the first woman to be nominated for Best Country Song.

jeannie-c-riley1969

  • Lynn Anderson, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”
  • Jan Howard, “My Son”
  • Jeannie C. Riley, “Harper Valley P.T.A.”
  • Dottie West, “Country Girl”
  • Tammy Wynette, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”

Jeannie C. Riley was catapulted into stardom on the strength of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” In addition to her victory here, she was nominated for Record of the Year and Best New Artist.

1968

  • Liz Anderson, “Mama Spank”
  • Skeeter Davis, “What Does it Take”
  • Connie Smith, “Cincinnati, Ohio”
  • Dottie West, “Paper Mansions”
  • Tammy Wynette, “I Don’t Wanna Play House”

Tammy Wynette won her first of two Grammy awards for her first #1 hit.   “I Don’t Wanna Play House” would serve as the domestic template for many of her best hits, with “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and “Bedtime Story” revisiting this theme most successfully.

jeannie-seely1967

  • Jan Howard, “Evil On Your Mind”
  • Loretta Lynn, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’”
  • Jeannie Seely, “Don’t Touch Me”
  • Connie Smith, “Ain’t Had No Loving”
  • Dottie West, “Would You Hold it Against Me”

Jeannie Seely’s victory for her debut single was something of a surprise, given it was competing against Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’.” That song was so popular that Lynn’s studio album of the same name went gold. Still, Seely’s hit is a classic in its own right, a standard that has since been covered by everyone from George Jones to Etta James.

1966

  • Molly Bee, “Single Girl Again”
  • Wilma Burgess, “Baby”
  • Skeeter Davis, “Sunglasses”
  • Jody Miller, “Queen of the House”
  • Dottie West, “Before the Ring on Your Finger Turns Green”

How dominant was Roger Miller at the Grammy awards this year?  Even a parody of “King of the Road” won a Grammy.  Jody Miller, who was of no relation to Roger, managed to launch a moderately successful career on the strength of this “answer song.”

dottie-west1965

  • Skeeter Davis, “He Says the Same Thing to Me”
  • Wanda Jackson, Two Sides of Wanda Jackson
  • Jean Shepard, “Second Fiddle”
  • Connie Smith, “Once a Day”
  • Dottie West, “Here Comes My Baby”

West won the very first Grammy given in this category.   While she’s more widely known for her more cosmopolitan work in the seventies, she was quite the traditional country singer when she first arrived on the scene.   She won against an accomplished field, every one of them a legend.

Facts and Feats

Most Wins

  • 4 – Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris
  • 3 – Anne Murray, Dolly Parton
  • 2 – Faith Hill, K .T. Oslin, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Tammy Wynette

Most Nominations

  • 18 – Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton
  • 10 - Trisha Yearwood
  • 9 – Tammy Wynette
  • 8 – Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride
  • 7 – Reba McEntire, Dottie West
  • 6 – Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tanya Tucker

Most Nominations without a Win

  • 8 – Martina McBride
  • 6 – Tanya Tucker
  • 5 – Barbara Mandrell, Lee Ann Womack
  • 4 – Skeeter Davis, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith
  • 3 – Janie Fricke, Pam Tillis, Wynonna
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23 Comments

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23 Responses to Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

  1. Joe RayNo Gravatar

    I really hope Carrie wins this award. She is awesome! I think she has a good chance with “Last Name” being the only upbeat song nominated.

  2. LindaNo Gravatar

    It’s great to see Shania winning a couple Grammys in this category. If I had to choose, I thought “Any Man of Mine” was a better choice for a Grammy than “Man! I Fele Like a Woman.”

    It is hard to believe that a singer with Trisha’s vocal caliber and interpretive ability has only won 1 Grammy. I don’t know how the voters choose, but many times it’s just a popularity contest.

  3. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    I tend to take most award show matters with a grain of salt, but if Trisha doesn’t win in this category, there should be rioting in the streets.

  4. I wouldn’t be shocked if she did, but I don’t think Underwood will win her third straight award in this category. Sure, “Last Name” is far and away the biggest hit in the line-up, but there are plenty of other recent examples (2006, 2004, 2003, 2002) when the biggest radio hit lost. Particularly with such a strong line-up (I’d say there’s a case to be made for each of these nominees other than McBride), I can see that happening again this year. That Underwood didn’t score the nomination for Best Country Album that many were expecting her to receive and to possibly win, and didn’t have “Last Name” land the corresponding Best Country Song nomination that both “Before He Cheats” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel” earned, suggests that she may not have quite the depth of support among the voters as she has in the past two years.

    So, if not Underwood, who then? I’d say either Womack or Yearwood takes this. Womack has the strongest base of critics’ support and (like McBride) could be regarded as overdue for a win here. But I wonder if “Last Call” peaked too late in the voting period– it’s the most recent of the five nominees, but it also hasn’t been the kind of touchstone record that her “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” was… and even that lost to an obscure, if deserving, Emmylou Harris cut.

    So I think the award goes to Yearwood, who did score a richly deserved nomination for Best Country Album and also a nod for “Let the Wind Chase You,” her duet with Keith Urban that wasn’t even a radio single. That indicates that she may have enough support among voters this year to overcome the middling chart performance of “This is Me You’re Talking To.”

    Maybe that’s just wishful thinking– personally, I think Yearwood’s just entirely too good a vocalist to have won just one Grammy in this category, and for arguably the worst song she’s ever recorded at that– but it looks to me that Yearwood has a great chance this year. It would be nice if the best performance of LeAnn Rimes’ career were more of a factor in this race, as well, but it’s hard to imagine that either Yearwood, Womack, or Underwood won’t win.

  5. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I for one certainly feel that Trisha should win this year’s Female Country Vocal Grammy, because hers was, in my opinion, a true artistic triumph for her, even though both country radio and the Nashville hierarchy have seemingly shunted her to the fringes in favor of Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift–a case of mere youth favored over experience.

    As a little sidenote that might have been missed: I believe the year 1976 marked the only time that three future winners of the Best Country Vocal Group/Duo Grammy were nominated in the Female Vocal category in the same year as solo artists–namely, of course, eventual winner Linda Ronstadt, and her two TRIO partners Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

  6. vpNo Gravatar

    I hadn’t realized that the great Martina had never won that’s just a shame, sad to say I don’t think she will make the cut this year either. I think it will be between Trisha and Carrie, They boith have the voice, where Trisha has the content and great material this year Carrie has the popularity, she is still riding atop a high wave when it comes to women in country music.

    I agree with Kevin, had they submitted Just A Dream she would have a lock on this years award. I think her camp may be saving it for next year since there will be a lack of material for her to submit with her recording a new album and all. This would be similar as to what they did with Before He Cheats.

  7. lauraNo Gravatar

    I will take to the streets in protest if Trisha dosen’t win this one. “This Is Me Your Talking To” still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. I think it’s one of the strongest vocal performances i’v heard from Trisha and that’s saying something.

  8. FelipeNo Gravatar

    I love Carrie, but I don’t think it’d be fair if she wins…
    But I don’t really know who I want to win this… Womack is actually my favorite one, Yearwood has the better performance and Rimes got the best lyrics… I’m really expecting LeAnn Rimes to win this one, once her song is a real gem, and deserve to be recognized.

    I think Carrie’s and Martina’s nominations were only by who they are, because I don’t think they are really on the running. Maybe if she Martina return with a stronger material, she can finally win her first Grammy on 2010, but we have to look for Womack next releases too, and also for Just A Dream!

  9. I’m with Dan and Laura. I say if Trisha doesn’t win, we take to the streets rioting and looting.

  10. ScottNo Gravatar

    anybody else as suprised as me that Martina has never won? After al, youve got “This One’s For the Girls”, “In My Daughters Eyes”, “Independence Day”, “Wrong Again”, “Concrete Angel”, “Happy Girl”, and “Anyway”…any of these shouldve been Grammy-worthy.

  11. AaronNo Gravatar

    Though I’m a huge Carrie fan, I don’t think she’s really in the running this year. Or, at least, she shouldn’t be. I think “Last Name” is probably the worst song she could be nominated for. Sure it was a big hit, but like Kevin said it’s had no where near the impact of her other songs she’s won for.

    This year my favorite to win is Lee Ann Womack. “Last Call” is probably my favorite song from the group and I think she’s long overdue! However, I think Yearwood is right on her tail. I’m expecting a showdown between these two. I can’t wait to see who ends up winning.

  12. JessicaNo Gravatar

    i love carrie love her to death but this year i think the grammy should go for trisha yearwood, its a close call between carrie womack and trisha but the last one deserves the most, dont worry carrie will get it in 2010 for just a dream !!!

  13. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    Name recognition defines this category. Crossover artists (Twain, Hill, Underwood) and industry icons (Harris, Parton) are time and again the easy targets for voters. Hill’s pair of wins and Shania’s triumph for “Man, I Feel Like a Woman!” are embarassing, and Patty Loveless has been woefully unrewarded.

  14. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I actually think that one of my favorite years for this category was 2008. I liked all of those songs.

  15. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Hill I’ve never much cared for, but I don’t think Twain winning for “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” deserves to be termed “embarrassing,” whatever folks like Steve Earle might say (and despite the fact that it meant Alison Krauss losing for “Forget About It”). Twain’s song might have been a fluffy, semi-ridiculous up-tempo, but her delivery on it was totally original at the time – the only reason it might seem less so nowadays is that countless girl singers have since tried to affect it (to varying extents). It seems like Twain has been frequently aided by pitch correction and I can see how a concern about that might make her win look silly. But the Grammys were originally created to reward creativity, and however we feel about Twain’s work, there’s no denying that her best stuff has that in spades, although it’s probably true that she won the category on mere name recognition. Anyways, I personally think her win for “You’re Still the One” was much less justified.

  16. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    And ditto Leeann on 2008 – it really says something when Miranda Lambert has probably the weakest performance of the bunch (to be fair, the other singers’ songs allowed them a lot more space to show off).

  17. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    My least favorite of the songs was actually Krauss’s, due to the production, not the vocals though. I agree on the vocals for Miranda, however, though I really like that song.

  18. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    I’m not suprised that McBride has never won. She has a great voice but often over uses it and has a poor song catalog that lacks consistency.
    This ur I think it will be a show down of Yearwood and Rimes….again! Underwood just has a very weak single this yr and the song does not deserve a Grammy.

  19. GavinNo Gravatar

    I have a question. Why wasn’t “Gun Powder and Lead” included in the nominations? It would have been the second biggest hit behind Last Name and Miranda’s biggest hit to date and a much better single than Martina’s “For These Times”. Am I missing something? I fully expected Carrie to get a nomination for “Just a Dream” and inexplicably it wasn’t submitted. Did anyone read anything about Just a Dream being disqualified for some obscure rule and therefore couldn’t be submitted? I thought I saw or heard that somewhere or was it just a dream. “Last Name” isn’t even close to being Carrie’s best song but I didn’t hate it and if she wins good for her. Trisha and Lee Ann, though they sang their songs perfectly, stayed in their comfort zone and really didn’t improve upon anything they’ve done in the past. LeAnne on the other hand veered away from her comfort zone with “What I Cannot Change” and hit a home run both artistically and vocally and deserves to win.

  20. Pingback: Poll - Grammy For Best Female Country Vocal Performance « My Kind Of Country

  21. JessicaNo Gravatar

    carries team decided to subimit just a dream next year, coz they wont have enough material with hte 3 album and in that way it has better chance on song of the year

  22. ZachNo Gravatar

    Trisha MUST win… o.0

    but if Carrie wins I wont be that mad…
    Although, I’d love to see Womack take home her first win, or Rimes as well….
    but Yearwood remains my favorite.
    We can say that Womack and Underwood both had hits in this category-
    “Last Name” went #1 last year and “Last Call” just went Top 15 ^^

  23. Larry L StoutNo Gravatar

    Kevin: You list Skeeter Davis as having 4 Nominations Without a Win – she had 5 beginning in 1959 and last in 1972. She actually had 6 if you count the Best C&W Performance in 1967 for “Chet’s Tune” by Some of Chet’s Friends which included Skeeter.

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