100 Greatest Women

100 Greatest Women, #11: Alison Krauss

June 19, 2008 // 17 Comments

100 Greatest Women #11 Alison Krauss The history of country music has long included women who have sought the crossover audience, tailoring their music so it will be more palatable to pop and adult contemporary radio formats. Alison Krauss is the only woman in history to successfully pull off the reverse: keeping her music as pure as she chooses and having the crossover audience come to her. Krauss was a child prodigy who began playing fiddle at the age of five. Though she initially played classic violin music, she switched to bluegrass shortly thereafter, and by the age of eight she was competing in local talent contests. When she was just thirteen years old, she won the Walnut Valley Festival Fiddle Championship, and she was named Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America. It was at these festivals that she met Read More

100 Greatest Women, #12: Dixie Chicks

June 18, 2008 // 37 Comments

100 Greatest Women #12 Dixie Chicks They went from being the one act everyone could agree on to the most controversial country band in history, but despite the changes in the climate surrounding them, one thing about the Dixie Chicks has always remained constant: their indisputable musical excellence. The story of the Dixie Chicks begins in Texas, with two musically talented sisters named Martie and Emily Irwin. Martie was quite adept on the fiddle as a child, and when Emily started showing interest in the instrument as well, Martie pushed her younger sister into learning different instruments instead. By their teenage years, Martie was a skilled on the fiddle, mandolin and viola, while Emily specialized in the banjo and dobro. The girls were eager to perform professionally, and in 1989, they joined up with fellow musicians Laura Lynch and Robin Lynn Macy to create a bluegrass band. Inspired by the Read More

100 Greatest Women, #13: Patty Loveless

June 17, 2008 // 42 Comments

100 Greatest Women #13 Patty Loveless “I’m a combination of Linda Ronstadt, Loretta Lynn and Ralph Stanley.” – Patty Loveless, 1989 Patty Loveless may be the last of the great mountain singers who will ever find mainstream country success, but there has always been a country-rock undercurrent to her material. Beloved by fans of pure country music, her work is deeply rooted in the mountain sounds of her native Kentucky, but her years singing rock music carried over into the studio, making her something of a progressive traditionalist. She was raised in Belcher Holler, a small Kentucky town where her father was a coal miner. He was struck by black lung disease, and the family moved to Louisville seeking medical care. Her older siblings Dotty and Roger performed in a country act they dubbed The Swingin’ Rameys, and when Dotty quit the band to get married, Roger coaxed Patty into Read More

100 Greatest Women, #14: Barbara Mandrell

June 16, 2008 // 25 Comments

100 Greatest Women #14 Barbara Mandrell Every once in a while, an artist comes along who both defies and redefines expectations. Barbara Mandrell was one of those artists. She completely transformed the notion of what a country music entertainer should be, breaking down barriers for women and raising the bar for all of those who followed her. She was a musical prodigy, already playing the accordion at age five. Her father owned a music store, so Barbara and her sisters had a myriad of musical instruments at their disposal. Barbara took full advantage of this, and began playing an assortment of core country instruments, becoming particularly adept on the banjo and the steel guitar. She also learned the saxophone. When she was just eleven, she began playing professionally. By age thirteen, her skill on the steel guitar had her playing on tour with the biggest acts of the day, including Read More

100 Greatest Women, #15: Tanya Tucker

June 15, 2008 // 11 Comments

100 Greatest Women #15 Tanya Tucker She was barely a teenager when she first appeared on the country music scene, but her voice had a tortured wisdom far beyond her years. Her early singles were dark and brooding slices of Southern Gothic, but over time she would mellow into one of the most consistently successful female country artists of all-time, with a span of hits stretching over three decades. As a young child, Tucker was surrounded by music. Her older sister LaCosta was an aspiring country singer, and by the time Tanya turned eight, she had embraced the same dream. Her father Bo drove her across the West and Southwest, looking for opportunities for his youngest child and taking construction jobs wherever he could find them. She auditioned for a film in Utah, earning a small part, and sang at the Arizona State fair. In 1969, she was discovered by Read More

100 Greatest Women, #16: Shania Twain

June 14, 2008 // 110 Comments

100 Greatest Women #16 Shania Twain The biggest-selling female country artist in history, Shania Twain achieved success on a worldwide scale that had never been seen before in country music, and hasn’t been seen since, either. Her stunning visual image made her an icon, but it was her songwriting that made her a superstar, bringing a female empowerment message that essentially ended the long tradition of heartbreak queens in country music. She started out in her native Canada, raised in Timmins, Ontario. Her given name was Eilleen Regina Edwards, and she was adopted at the age of two by her mother’s second husband, Jerry Twain. Her mom noticed Eilleen’s gifts at an early age, and by the age of ten, she was being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night to perform country songs at the local bars. Because of her age, she could only sing in Read More

100 Greatest Women, #17: Brenda Lee

June 13, 2008 // 5 Comments

100 Greatest Women #17 Brenda Lee She was the rockabilly superstar that Music City had dreamed would come along, a pioneer who made the fusion of early rock and country commercially viable. She made timeless records while still in her early teens, and matured into a mainstream country singer later in her career. Today, she is a legend to both country and rock audiences, one of the few artists who can be found in both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not bad for a poor Georgia girl who started singing professionally to help her widowed mother pay the bills. Brenda Lee was born Brenda Mae Tarpley, and she was singing from the time she could walk. As a toddler, she could hear a song twice on the radio and be able to sing it back, word for word. Even at age six, she was a Read More

100 Greatest Women, #18: Cindy Walker

June 12, 2008 // 11 Comments

100 Greatest Women #18 Cindy Walker For all intents and purposes, the story of professional female songwriters in country music begins with Cindy Walker. In an era where almost all artists and writers were men, she was a phenomenon, a prolific writer whose work was cut by the top recording artists of the forties and fifties, and whose songs were so strong that they’d be recorded over and over again in the decades that followed. She grew up in Texas, where her mother was a highly skilled pianist. Though she loved performing, and was doing so publicly from the age of seven, her greatest passion was songwriting. She dreamed of going to Los Angeles, where the western movies of her hero Bing Crosby were made. In 1941, her father had to go to L.A. on a business trip, and he invited his wife and daughter along. Cindy threw all of Read More

100 Greatest Women, #19: Dottie West

June 11, 2008 // 2 Comments

100 Greatest Women Dottie West She started out as a heartache singer who could wail a lonesome tune with the best of them. She developed into a sultry, showy stage performer. For more than two decades, her presence was felt on the country charts, but her presence was felt even more by the young new artists that she took under her wing. Dottie West grew up in rural Tennessee, the oldest of ten children. Her family was poor when she was young, so much so that they went without electricity and plumbing, and made their own soap. Her childhood would not be an easy one, as she dealt with a father who was both physically and sexually abusive to her. When she was seventeen, she reported him to the police, and he was sentenced to forty years for his crimes against her. Music had been a comfort for her while Read More

100 Greatest Women, #20: Rosanne Cash

June 10, 2008 // 10 Comments

100 Greatest Women #20 Rosanne Cash She was one of the dominant female country voices throughout the eighties, and the incisive words and music of Rosanne Cash were leagues beyond most of her contemporaries. She was also the daughter of a country music icon and legend, but her own music was so distinctively different from her father’s that one could be excused for not realizing she called Johnny Cash “Dad.” The eldest child from her father’s first marriage, Cash was raised in Nashville, where she was teased at school for her hillbilly lineage. When her parents split, she moved with her mom to southern California, where she spent a good deal of her late childhood and teenage years. She also began traveling with her father’s road show, soon after she graduated high school. A job on laundry duty eventually developed into backup singing and occasional turns in the spotlight. However, Read More

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