Women in Rock & Roll's First Wave, 1950s and early 1960s
June 11, 2019 9:20 PM   Subscribe

For sixty years, conventional wisdom has told us that women generally did not perform rock and roll during the 1950s. The reality is, however, that hundreds—or maybe thousands—of women and girls performed and recorded rock and roll in its early years. And many more participated in other ways: writing songs, owning or working for record labels, working as session or touring musicians, designing stage wear, dancing, or managing talent—to give just a few examples. The Women in Rock Project is working to document these musicians, artists, and other women in the first wave of rock'n'roll, from Faye Adams to “The Duchess,” Norma-Jean Wofford, with biographies and partial discographies, and some interviews.

The site was created by Leah Branstetter (Twitter) as a digital dissertation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Case Western Reserve University. Branstetter is also Digital Education Manager at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where she oversees Rock Hall EDU.

A few more videos and bios to stoke your interest: Found from Open Culture, via Everlasting Blort.
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 


Wanda Jackson !!!
posted by msjen at 3:56 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


This is amazing. Thanks for the post. I'm currently digging Lillian Briggs, and I am so sad that I've never heard of her or any of these other women. All the hours I've spent listening to oldies stations and even running the board for oldies programming radio shows, it's a crime that their contributions have been erased.

Telling pretty much anybody who'll listen about the Women in Rock Project.
posted by jzb at 4:52 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Slim Jim Phantom of Stray Cats fame does a rockabilly show on Sirius on Sunday nights, and gives the women of rockabilly plenty of airtime.
posted by delfin at 6:22 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


How about Carol Kaye who played guitar on "La Bamba"? (as well as a whole lot of other stuff).
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:07 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


All the hours I've spent listening to oldies stations and even running the board for oldies programming radio shows, it's a crime that their contributions have been erased.

Some circles and genres seem more focused on reinforcing the known artists and songs, which means past neglect is continued forward. "Classic rock" radio is the worst at this, but I think oldies stations aren't too far behind. It feels like if the DJ didn't hear it growing up, it doesn't exist.

On the flip-side, there's the super-secretive British DJs from the '60s and '70s, who picked up the trick of "white-labeling" or mis-labeling records from Jamaican selectors who moved to the UK (Atlas Obscura), who valued obscure tracks (but their practices lead to some songs being "lost" because they were mis-attributed).


How about Carol Kaye who played guitar on "La Bamba"?

I contacted Leah via the about page to ask her this, as that page includes a contact form, and asks for any additional women involved in early rock'n'roll to add to the site.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:34 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Where's Sister Rosetta Tharpe? She literally invented rock and roll!
posted by J.K. Seazer at 7:36 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


Great post! Thanks!
posted by josher71 at 8:48 AM on June 12


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