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Women in Texas Music

Women in Texas Music
Stories and Songs

From the author of Telling Stories, Writing Songs: An Album of Texas Songwriters comes a fascinating collection of interviews with Texas women singer-songwriters and performers, including Emily Robison, Terri Hendrix, Lee Ann Womack, Rosie Flores, Betty Buckley, Marcia Ball, Lavelle White, and Bobbie Nelson.

Series: Brad and Michele Moore Roots Music Endowment

September 2007
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292 pages | 6 x 9 | 28 b&w illus. |

Across the state and across a wide variety of musical genres, women are making their mark on Texas music. Some have become international superstars, while others are just starting to make their voices heard. But every woman who goes out and plays her music proves that "baring one's heart and soul takes courage, and Texas women artists have a lot of courage," as Lloyd Maines observes in the opening interview of this book. To pay tribute to these dedicated musicians and to capture their unique perspectives on what it means to be a woman in the music business, Kathleen Hudson has spent many years interviewing Texas women musicians for the Texas Heritage Music Foundation.

In Women in Texas Music, Hudson lets us listen in on conversations with thirty-nine musical artists, including Emily Robison, Terri Hendrix, Lee Ann Womack, Rosie Flores, Betty Buckley, Marcia Ball, Lavelle White, and Bobbie Nelson. Hudson encourages and allows the women to tell their own stories as she delves into their life journeys, creative processes, and the importance of writing and performing music, be it blues, rock, country, folk, jazz, or pop. The interviews are warm and open, like good friends sharing the lessons that a life of playing music has taught them.

What emerges from this collection is a solid sense of the strength and integrity that women bring to and gain from Texas music. Everyone who cares about music and culture in Texas will want to join the conversation.

  • Foreword: A Conversation with Lloyd Maines
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Author's Story
  • Emily Robison: Living Outloud
  • Susan Gibson: On the Road
  • Terri Hendrix: A Force of Nature
  • Ruthie Foster and Cyd Cassone: The Heart of Texas
  • Lee Ann Womack: A Texan in Nashville
  • Stephanie Urbina Jones: San Antonio Matters
  • Jill Jones: Ride 'Em Cowgirl
  • Rosie Flores: A Rockabilly Woman
  • Betty Buckley: Broadway to Texas
  • Marcia Ball: Freda Lives On
  • Angela Strehli: Being True to Yourself
  • The Texana Dames: A Family Affair
  • Pauline Reese: Honky-Tonk Reigns
  • Lee Duffy: A Life of Miracles
  • Shemekia Copeland: A Wild, Wild Woman
  • Jewel Brown: Prayers and Joy
  • Trudy Lynn: Diva of Soul and Blues
  • Lavelle White: Strutting Her Stuff
  • Katie Webster: Swamp Boogie Queen
  • Wanda King: Blues for Freddie
  • Karen Abrahams: Paying Her Dues
  • Barb Donovan: Serious About Townes
  • Neesie Beal: Surprise in the Package
  • Christine Albert: The French Connection
  • Sara Hickman: Magic on Stage
  • Melissa Javors: Serious About Writing
  • Lydia Mendoza Davila: Her Mother's Daughter
  • Mandy Mercier: Telling the Truth
  • Bobbie Nelson: Heartache and Joy
  • Lana Nelson: Taking Care of Daddy
  • Rattlesnake Annie: A Female Willie Nelson
  • Carolyn Wonderland: Tough and Tender
  • Elana Fremerman (James): Fiddling with Bob
  • Eva Ybarra: La Reina de la Acordeón
  • Coda
  • Recommended Reading

Kathleen Hudson is the founding director of the Texas Heritage Music Foundation, located at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, where she also teaches English.


The women in this collection have chosen to live life fully, to keep generating possibility, to celebrate and enjoy life. They tell stories of rich and diverse lives where family and relationship matter, AND they are committed to pursuing their dreams. This collection of life stories does not reveal a group of women whining, complaining, or even ranting and railing, but the subtle message of inequality is still present. This collection contains the stories of courageous women.


I've never labeled myself a feminist, but I may start doing so. I didn't burn bras or participate in marches. My concerns were always with the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the outsider. All of mankind. I did not question the word mankind. Now I see, once again, that our language reveals our cultural bias around women.


I began this project by talking to musicians and songwriters who moved me with their music. I knew I wanted to give special attention to the women. As I conducted these interviews in the field, I realized that I did have similar experiences, unnoticed before, in my own life. I may have started this project as a woman working alone in the world, but I finished it with a deep awareness and understanding of my kinship with all these women. I know intellectually that we are all part of the family of human beings, but I felt the connection in my body this time.


My work with Hal Robinson, shamanic healer and Gestalt therapist in Kerrville, helped with some important integration as I got in touch with voices I had abandoned in myself. During this project I spent a week with my daughter and three granddaughters in Wichita, Kansas. I watched these women interact, and I watched my daughter make life easy for her husband, as he worked and finished up school. She also taught fulltime. I was reminded, once again, of the many responsibilities women take on. I was also reminded of how we bend to the values of patriarchy without really looking at some of our choices. My mother, affectionately called Saint Annabel, was the force that kept our family strong while Dad was out living his dream of medicine and providing for his family. I have talked with my mother on a regular basis my entire life. Now that Dad is retired, I get to talk with him when he answers the phone. Balance.


I chose San Miguel de Allende as the place to put together this manuscript. The women in this community became friends. In December I spent ten days in San Miguel with Jeanne Slobod as my traveling companion. We not only shared a workshop by Life Path Retreats called "Awakening the Divine Feminine," but we spent mornings in my apartment talking and sharing stories. Her perspective from her eighty-eight years on the planet helped shape my own listening to the women in this book.


I had a dream in San Miguel de Allende that I was massaging a man's back, and then turned him over. There I found a little black kitten sleeping peacefully. I had read about Joseph Dispenza (Life Path Retreats) and his work with dream interpretations, so I joined the Tuesday afternoon group. At the end I saw the dream as a reminder of the work I am doing in the world, turning over the male perspective to discover and reveal the female perspective, the divine feminine energy that the planet so needs at this time. The workshop I later did with Joseph and Beverly Nelson worked on the distinctions between "domination and partnership." We used the structure of maiden, mother, and crone, the three phases of womanhood, to shape the workshop. I saw how difficult it is for a group of people, highly steeped in a dominant paradigm, to even talk about partnership models, like a group of fish trying to talk about water. What an amazing experience for me as I finished this manuscript. Joseph also reminded me, "Include more of yourself in this book."


I was shocked to find that over 800 women are listed in the Texas Music Industry Guide, yet most festivals around the state feature the boys’ club. Even Willie's picnic lacks female performers. I know they are not all out there knocking on doors and being told no, but I also know festival producers are not looking them up and asking. The Billy Joe Shaver Birthday Concert at the Paramount in Austin, Texas, had one woman on the lineup: Pauline Reese. And I know Billy Joe appreciates the women. It seems the young guns of Texas music get a lot more play with a lot less work. I read through a magazine that runs my monthly column, and the lineups at many festivals advertised include men only. The covers are mostly photos of men. I am sure more men are out there on the road. What does that say? That more men are talented? I think not.


I do have a great appreciation for the men of Texas music. Just ask Charlie Robison. I went to his 2004 CD release in both Helotes and Kerrville, taking photos of Charlie and his son Gus onstage. I have a huge appreciation for Charlie and for the spirit of Guy, Townes, and Billy Joe that he evokes. I was thrilled that Emily Robison, mother and wife as well as Dixie Chick, decided to contact me and create some time for us to talk.


As I look back at my first book on songwriters, I am painfully aware that many women were left out. I wrote about the people around me, and it looks like most of them were men! This book became a deliberate search for the stories of women. It is not a definitive collection, but rather a sampling of a mine rich with treasures. Again, I am painfully aware that I cannot include all the stories I've heard, and that this collection is eclectic rather than definitive.


Lydia Mendoza's daughter took me to a rest home where I could sit with Lydia, a profound influence on the music of this state. Lana Nelson took time out from the Dylan/Willie/Hot Club of Cowtown tour to invite me to eat backstage with her as we talked. Stephanie Urbina Jones invited me to her home in Nashville, and we shared some time with her first baby, Zeta. Bobbie Nelson had me over for tea, and Susan Gibson came to my hotel for a visit during South by Southwest in Austin. Katherine Dawn, Darcey Deauville, Jean Prescott, Tish Hinojosa, Michelle Shocked, and more said yes to a possible future conversation. At times I wanted this project to last a lifetime, and maybe it will.


I could not include all the women I had chosen for the project. Some declared they were too busy to take time out to talk. Others said they were interested, and I never got back with them. Timing. Again, this is not a definitive collection, but rather a sampling of voices.


As I continued to talk with women, my own life went through changes. Each woman told me a story that inspired me. I began to live with more courage. I even got up onstage at the Mountain Home Opry (near my house) and sang "Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." I sang "Richland Woman" at a faculty meeting after giving a report on my research for this project. And I had been a woman who did not have the courage to sing in front of others even though I wanted to. These interviews with brave women inspired me to be courageous.


This project caused me to stop and do some research. My work in Texas music has led me to many a wonderful festival, concert, and performance. I read Adrienne Rich with a new eye. When she said that it's time to "enter the text from a new direction," I saw the implications for an interpretation of the interviews I have collected. These women were doing just that.


With a focus on the contributions of women, I have discovered another layer in this rich mine. Watching Elana Fremerman (now Elana James) take the lead on her fiddle, with Bob Dylan on keyboard accompanying her, singing "Highway 61 Revisited" on the 2004 tour of baseball parks with Willie Nelson, was a highlight in my life. I am a longtime fan of the genius of Bob Dylan. His tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers in 1997 echoed the Texas tribute I created in 1997 with Willie Nelson. Both men inspire me to keep doing what I do, collecting the stories of Texas music. Bob Dylan called Carolyn Wonderland when he was in Houston one time, inviting her to join him in the studio. Our paths seem to cross without touching, and his life and work inspire me to do the work I do.


The material gathered in this oral history project provides material for my various classes at Schreiner University: composition, world literature, children's literature, mythology, and creative writing. Often I invite the men and women I interview to be guests in the classroom, at the coffeehouse, at the annual writing conference. I see my life as a tapestry rich with many threads of varied textures. My life as a teacher gives me the space to utilize all aspects of my life. I see patterns, I live them, I create them.


Read this collection with an eye for the patterns. You will see your own patterns, filtered through your own life's experience. Together we create this text.




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