Features

100 Greatest Women, #22: Wanda Jackson

June 8, 2008 // 5 Comments

100 Greatest Women #22 Wanda Jackson The original rockabilly queen. When Wanda Jackson heeded Elvis Presley’s advice and put some rock in her country, she shattered all conventions associated with her gender’s place in country music, injecting a raw energy into her records and live performances that still turns heads today. In the beginning, her aspirations weren’t that lofty. Her dad bought her a guitar when she was a young child, and she grew up imitating the country acts of the forties, like Spade Cooley and Tex Williams. She was just fifteen when she won a local talent contest in Oklahoma City, the prize being her own 15-minute weekly radio show. She continued to perform on the station throughout the rest of high school, and her time was doubled as her popularity grew. Hank Thompson heard her on the radio, and wanted her to join him on the road. She Read More

100 Greatest Women, #24: Connie Smith

June 7, 2008 // 12 Comments

100 Greatest Women #24 Connie Smith “There’s really only three female singers in the world: Streisand, Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are just pretending.” – Dolly Parton Connie Smith was born in Indiana, but she grew up in West Virginia, where she first began singing publicly. She later moved to Ohio, and though she was soon a housewife and mother, she still sang in her spare time. She performed on local television shows, and when she won a talent contest in 1963, she was discovered by Bill Anderson. He quickly arranged for her to be signed to RCA Records, and wrote a song especially for her called “Once a Day.” When that record was released in the summer of 1964, she was an overnight success. The song spent an astonishing eight weeks at #1, and it still holds the record for the longest run at the top Read More

100 Greatest Women, #25: Faith Hill

June 6, 2008 // 14 Comments

100 Greatest Women #25 Faith Hill The story of Faith Hill begins in the small town of Star, Mississippi. When she was only nine years old, she saw Elvis Presley in concert and knew immediately that she wanted to be an entertainer. Thanks to her ear for a great hook and ease singing diverse styles, she has become one of the top-selling female artists in country music history. Like many singers, she began singing in church. When she was just seventeen, she fronted a country band that played in local rodeos. At nineteen, she quit college and move to Nashville to pursue her dream. When an audition to be Reba McEntire’s backup singer was unsuccessful, she sold t-shirts while looking for an industry job. She briefly married Dan Hill, an industry executive, and kept the surname after the marriage ended. She landed a job as a secretary at a publishing Read More

100 Greatest Women, #26: Martina McBride

June 5, 2008 // 19 Comments

100 Greatest Women #26 Martina McBride With a big voice and a taste for topical material, Martina McBride has been one of the most consistently successful female country acts of the past fifteen years. She reached her commercial peak when female artists were dominating the genre, but she managed to maintain her popularity when women were all but banished from country radio. She was raised in small town Kansas, and grew up singing in her family’s country band, The Schiffters. They played at local dances in the area. Once in college, she expanded her horizons, singing with a rock band for a brief period. She soon met sound engineer John McBride, and after a brief courtship, they married in 1988. Two years later, the happy couple moved to Nashville. John’s career took off first, as his sound engineering job with rising star Garth Brooks ended up a tour job with Read More

100 Greatest Women, #27: Kathy Mattea

June 4, 2008 // 7 Comments

100 Greatest Women #27 Kathy Mattea She was a gifted child who had been skipped a grade, who then dropped out of college and followed her songwriting boyfriend to Nashville. He had given up his dream before a year was through, but Kathy Mattea stuck around, laying the foundations for a career that has already spanned twenty-five years. Mattea was born in West Virginia, the daughter of a man who was the first in his family to find work outside the coal mines. She started singing in Girl Scout camp, and developed a love for folk music. Only seventeen when she began her studies at West Virginia University , she joined a bluegrass band called Pennsboro. The band leader and principal songwriter wanted to try his luck in Nashville, and Mattea made the bold decision to drop out of college and follow him to Music City. Only nineteen when she Read More

100 Greatest Women, #28: Anne Murray

June 3, 2008 // 7 Comments

100 Greatest Women #28 Anne Murray There may never have been a more unassuming female superstar than Anne Murray, who quietly built up an impressive run of hits that stretched two decades long. All this from a soft-spoken high school gym teacher who half-heartedly pursued the fame and fortune that came looking for her instead. For Murray, music had only been a hobby. As she studied for her physical education degree at the Canadian University of New Brunswick, she tried out for the weekly CBC television series Singing Jubilee. They already had enough alto singers, but the producer remembered her. Two years had passed since the audition and she was already a high school gym teacher. The producer called her up with an offer to join at TV show called Let’s Go. She took the job, but kept teaching at the same time. She struck up a friendship with the Read More

100 Greatest Women, #29: Mary Chapin Carpenter

June 1, 2008 // 12 Comments

100 Greatest Women #29 Mary Chapin Carpenter The list of intelligent female singer-songwriters that have made it big in country music is fairly short. Brown-educated and world-traveled by the time she performed publicly, Mary Chapin Carpenter brought a sophistication to country music that was eagerly embraced by the industry and fans alike. Carpenter began singing the folks songs that she loved when still in high school. Reportedly, classmates threatened to cut her guitar strings if she sang “Leavin’ On a Jet Plane” one more time. The divorce of her parents contributed to her introversion, and she was a reluctant public performer. After attending Brown, earning a degree in American Civilization, she attempted to pursue her musical ambitions. Fate intervened when she met John Jennings, who would become her primary collaborator. At the time they met, she still considered music a hobby and was determined to “get a real job.” He Read More

100 Greatest Women, #30: Lorrie Morgan

May 31, 2008 // 9 Comments

100 Greatest Women #30 Lorrie Morgan There are many second generation country stars that build on the legacy of the famous parent that came before them. Lorrie Morgan is one of the few that actually eclipsed her famous parent, becoming one of the most popular female country artists during the nineties gold rush. Of course, she’d been chasing the dream long before that. She was born the daughter of George Morgan, an Opry member who had his biggest hit in 1949 with “Candy Kisses.” Morgan has described herself as an “Opry brat,” a kid who grew up backstage of the venerable institution. She was 13 when she made her own Opry debut, garnering a huge ovation for her rendition of Marie Osmond’s “Paper Roses.” Three short years later, her father died suddenly. Still a teen in high school, she dedicated herself fully to pursuing her own singing career, both to Read More

100 Greatest Women, #31: Rose Maddox

May 31, 2008 // 13 Comments

100 Greatest Women #31 Rose Maddox She was only ten years old when her big brothers pulled her into their band, needing a female singer on the spot to land a regular performing gig on the radio in Modesta, California. She quickly learned as many songs as she could, and joined her brothers to form The Maddox Brothers & Rose, one of the most influential hillbilly bands of all-time. Her family had moved to California during the Dust Bowl, and her brothers loathed the idea of manual labor for a pittance of pay. They found a dedicated audience willing to pay their bills for a few songs in return, and they toured the west coast, hopping from rodeo to rodeo and club to club, playing for nominal fees plus tips. Another act playing the same circuit was Woody Guthrie, and Rose caught his show when she was only twelve. She Read More

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