Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass, By Murphy Hicks Henry

Murphy Henry

My book is out! My book is out! My book is out!


Ok, it’s not quite out but you can pre-order it on Amazon, or from The Murphy Method! It is quite mind-boggling for me to go to Amazon and search for Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass and see my name and my book come up! This link will take you right to it: Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass (Music in American Life). I don’t think we can beat their price ($19.37) and we do get a little something if you follow the above link to order it, but you can also order directly from us right here, and all of our copies will be autographed (and personalized if you like).

Pretty Good for A Girl Cover


And now the trailer is up on YouTube.

I gave my first talk about the book at our Intermediate Banjo Camp this past weekend and I was appreciative of the interest and the enthusiasm for my 10-year-long labor of love!

The book turned out to be an amazing 469 pages long, of which 383 pages are text. The rest are sources, bibliography, and index. It has three sections of quality black and white photos which have pretty much not been seen before. I am SO grateful to the photographers who let me use their photos free of charge. As I said to Dan Loftin, “I’m calling to ask to use some of your photographs for free and you are going to let me.” “And why am I going to do that?” he replied. “Two words,” I said. “Rubye Davis.” Of course he had to let me after hearing that. Dan loved Rubye’s playing and I quoted him in the book saying, “I went to hear Hubert Davis play the five but got blindsided by this tall, dark-complected woman singing bluegrass standards with soul like I’ve never heard. I always thought of Rubye as being the soul of the Season Travelers. That’s the way I remember her: singing her heart out to a crowd of fans that knew she was singing just to them.”


The book is arranged chronologically in six sections beginning with Sally Ann Forrester, who played accordion with Bill Monroe in the 1940s, and ending in the 21st century with the Dixie Chicks and Cherryholmes. There are 44 separate chapters documenting the lives of over 70 women (with many more women mentioned for their contributions).


Why did I write the book? Primarily to show, with historical documentation, that bluegrass is not, in fact, a man’s music, as so many people believe it is, or was. As is frequently the case women have always been there—they simply haven’t been “seen,” much less written about. But I also wanted to tell the stories of these incredible women who bucked enormous cultural resistance (much of it subtle) to follow their own heart’s desire and play bluegrass.


I think it is telling that I chose the title for the book—Pretty Good for a Girl—because I heard that said to me so often. As did many other women. Rhonda Vincent even put that line in her song “American Bluegrass Girl,” singing, “All my life they told me / You’re pretty good for a girl.” As I said in the book, “You understand that the intent is to offer praise, but at the same time the compliment comes with the hidden dagger ‘for a girl.’ ” Someone told me that Bill Monroe had actually said that about Alison Krauss and her fiddle playing! Does it never stop? (Monroe himself was happy to use Vivian Williams as a fiddler with the Blue Grass Boys when he needed to pull together a band out in Seattle. Not to mention Bessie Lee Mauldin who was his bass player for years!)


I tried hard to write the book in an easy-to-read style because, more than anything, I want people to read it! I interviewed almost all the women featured in the book and used lots of quotes from my interviews as well as from other sources. Here’s one of my favorites from Ginger Boatwright who was talking about her mastectomy and her reconstructive surgery. She was telling Bluegrass Now how the surgeons had taken tissue from her stomach to reconstruct her breast. She said, “Now when I get hungry, my hooter rumbles!”


The women I interviewed were funny, candid, and, I think, glad to have their stories taken seriously. I hope you enjoy reading about them. I loved writing about them.


15 thoughts on “Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass, By Murphy Hicks Henry

  1. Martin Bacon

    Just ordered five copies. I will of course have to get them autographed:) I really enjoyed skimming the book and look forward to reading it in depth. I did like all the pictures:) To me the book is not just a history of women in bluegrass but of bluegrass in general and more generally of women in the 20th and early 21st century. I bet Univ. of Illinois Press is well pleased with the quality of TDB. It was worth the wait.

  2. Nate Rhodes

    Hello Murphy,
    Would you want to do a book signing for this at the Winchester Book Gallery?

  3. admin

    Post author

    I feel like her answer will definitely be yes, but I’ll forward her your comment to make sure she sees and answers!


  4. Diana MacKenzie

    Murphy…I’m so excited, can hardly wait to receive the book. You were at Kaufman Kamp last year as was I….you’re the best. I told my husband back in Oregon that when I saw you I was going to give you a hug and kiss, thanks for letting that happen.


  5. JohnD


    We are awfully proud of you!

    I can’t wait to read the book, definitely wanna get it signed by you.



  6. admin

    Post author

    Yes! THat’s her on the cover! I’ll let Murphy answer you more fully, though…


  7. Barbara


    I look forward to reading the book! Will need to arrange for the daughter and I to stop by for an autograph once the books arrive. Very proud of your accomplishments.


    Barb & Heather
    Murphy’s Misfits

  8. Sandra P

    wow, Murphy, you are doing a great service getting your book out to the world! It is time women get recognized in the Bluegrass arena as well as being encouraged to play.
    My two sisters and I grew up with my Dad playing Bluegrass every weekend. Our house was full of instruments, that we didn’t get to touch or learn to play because we weren’t boys. Our Dad played mandolin, guitar, bass, and he had a banjo and fiddle too.
    One of my sisters and I got to sing Everly Brothers songs but that was the extent of it. Dad tuned into WWVA late nights on radio to hear the latest new music. We were taken to the Lone Star Ranch in Hudson, NH every Sunday as kids for the music shows with the up and coming stars.
    I look forward to reading about all the women setting the stage and enduring “pretty good for a girl”.

  9. Vicki Abbott


    Congratulations on your new book! Our banjo player, Trina Emig, has already ordered and received the book. I gotta order one. I can’t wait to see it. Can we order autographed copies?


  10. admin

    Post author

    Hi Vicki,

    All the copies we sell through the Murphy Method website are autographed. If you’d like it personalized, just indicate that in the “notes” box at checkout.


  11. Vicki Abbott


    Trina Emig just order 2 books. One is for me. If they haven’t shipped yet, could you please have Murphy autograph one for me? Trina would probably like hers autographed, too. I hadn’t seen your post when she order. If it’s too late, maybe we’ll catch Murphy somewhere and have her sign it.



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