Tag Archives: Pretty Good For A Girl

Pretty Good For A Girl CoverWe've just crossed into summer, so we thought it would be an appropriate time to direct you to this Summer Reading List over on Banjo Cafe. Murphy's book "Pretty Good For A Girl" graces it, along with three other banjo-centric books, and one about the Louvin Brothers.

Check it out!

5 Summer Must-Reads for Banjo Players

Check out this youtube link to see Sally Ann Forrester, who played accordion with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys back in the 1940s, playing accordion with Tommy Scott. This is wonderful footage and really shows off her playing!!!!! And she is a gorgeous woman!

The opening chapter of my book, Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass, is about Sally Ann.

Or here's a link if that embed doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvpMKxGdnRA

Pretty Good For A Girl Cover The good reviews keep streaming in. Here is one from independent reviewer Donald Teplyske on his blog The Lonesome Road Review. He really likes the book, but doesn't pull his punches when pointing out typos and things he thinks should have been done differently. A very fair evaluation.

Read the review right here.

Buy the book right here.

Or buy it for Kindle right here.

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Since Casey and I are holding our first-ever Women's Banjo Camp soon (July 19-21), I thought I would reprint my second Banjo Newsletter column. This blog also celebrates (again!) the publishing of my long-awaited book about women in bluegrass, Pretty Good for a Girl. As you will see, I've been writing about women in bluegrass for many decades. I guess that's because, as the old joke goes, I are one!


Thirty years ago, in June of 1983, Banjo Newsletter published my first article, "A Day of Banjo Teaching." With my next column in July,  "For Girls Only," the cat came out of the bag as I boldly announced that I was a banjo player and a woman! That surprised many folks who assumed that a banjo player named Murphy had to be a man! I took advantage of that combination--woman and banjo player--to offer some advice to my banjo-playing sisters in bluegrass. (Totally oblivious to the fact that most of the subscribers to BNL were men!)


I now present that entire column for your edification and reading pleasure! (This column was first reprinted in my book And There You Have It.)




Okay. We might as well get this settled straight off: I am a girl. Oh, yes, I know. “Murphy” is a strange first name for a girl, and “Murphy Henry” is practically unbelievable, but there you have it.  I am here today to offer some comments on learning to pick the banjo as a girl, and to give some tips, particularly to you aspiring female banjo pickers.

Let’s face it—bluegrass has historically been a male-oriented music, and the banjo has been a male’s instrument. To quote Nat Winston, MD, who as we all know, wrote the foreword to the Scruggs book:

“The five-string banjo has, so far as it’s known throughout its history, been a man’s way to music. It’s a rare woman who has known this instrument understandingly enough to become a virtuoso.” 

Actually, it’s also been a rare man who has become a banjo virtuoso, but he doesn’t mention that. I quote him to show you what you’re up against—his is not an isolated attitude. You can learn to pick the banjo, and here are some tips that I hope will make it easier for you. When you are alone by yourself studying Earl and doing your “woodshedding,” it makes no difference whether you are male or female. It’s when you get into a group of people that are playing music that the fact you are a girl will make a difference. It’s in the attitude of the pickers toward you, and your attitude toward yourself in a jam session. Now, you’ve got to understand that I’m talking about learning to play bluegrass banjo—your hard-driving Scruggs style banjo. I don’t think anybody would quarrel with the idea that that is where you need to start, regardless of where you go after that. Okay. That brings me to my first tip:

Tip 1: Be aggressive. If hard-driving bluegrass is being played (or even attempted) it is ninety-nine times out of a hundred going to throw you in with a group of macho good old boys. At ease! Don’t be offended. Just think for a minute and see if it’s not true. Young or old, there is a definite sort of male camaraderie that exists among bluegrass musicians. They are liberated enough so that they won’t exclude you entirely, but you’d better show them pretty quick that you can get down on it.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I mean be aggressive with your banjo playing,  not with your self. Jam session etiquette is very specific, and a jam session’s balance is delicate enough to be destroyed by one person who is out-of-step with the jam. Just play quietly until you’re offered a break—and you will be. If you’d like to take it, take it. If it’s entirely out of your range, just shake your head, “No.” Once you’ve got a break, don’t be fancy. Keep it simple. Play hard. I know, I know. There are opposing schools of thought on this.  Sonny Osborne doesn’t play hard; J.D. doesn’t play hard. But I say, as a beginner and as a girl,  you need to pick hard to get attention, to get respect, and to get good tone. Better to start out picking hard and decide to lighten your touch later on, then to start out picking lightly, and never even be heard in a jam session Male or female, the bluegrass banjo is an aggressive instrument.

Tip 2: Don’t be a hostess. This is important. (We’re assuming here that there are no kids—we’ll talk about this later.) Whether the jam session is at your campsite at a festival or in your home, concentrate on one thing only—picking the banjo. Don’t be hopping up and down getting beer for people. Let them get their own damn beer. Don’t be fixing snacks and serving food. Don’t spend the hour before a jam session cleaning house—spend it practicing. Get your priorities in order at a jam session. Picking banjo is number one!

Tip 3: Don’t let anybody take your banjo away from you. I have never seen this happen to a guy. But it has happened to me, and it’s the worst feeling in the world. There you are, struggling along, trying to play, —maybe the jam’s over your head, and you’re having to hang back—just trying to figure out the chord sequence to Little Rock Getaway or Sweet Georgia Brown—that’s okay, you’re enjoying it and you’re learning. Then, somebody says, “Hey, mind if I pick your banjo?” like it’s in the case or or something. So you say “Okay,” because you want to be nice, and then you never get it back, and the jam goes on without you. Don’t do it! Just politely refuse. Remember, any picker worth his salt wouldn’t have asked to borrow it.

Tip 4: Kids. I told you we’d get around to kids. If you’re serious about your music, learn to play first—then have kids. Girls, this really applies to you only. Somehow, even in this liberated age, it’s not the same for the guys. It’s hard to concentrate on Earl at 16 rpm when your kid is pulling all your books off the bookshelf, or is about to fall off the bed, or is screaming her head off because to keep her from pulling all the books off the bookshelf or falling off the bed you have put her in her playpen. And it’s hard to justify the expense and hassle of putting her in a nursery just so you can practice banjo. And even when she’s older, it’s “Mama, look at this cake I made. Mama, I want something to drink. Mama, don’t play. Mama, Mama, Mama...” And if you think you can wait until evening to practice when the kiddies are all safely ensconced in their little beddies, think again. You’re too tired. Maybe when the kids are grown...

Tip 4a: Kids at jam sessions. I’m talking about your kids. Your little kids, who do not belong at a jam session if you are seriously trying to pick. Farm them out. Kids at practice sessions: Ditto.

Kids at festivals: Not if you are playing on stage there. People ask me all the time if I bring my kids (ages five  and two) to our shows. I always answer, “Are you kidding? Do you take your children to work with you?” Playing music is a demanding profession. It takes all of my concentration. If my kids are around, I cannot give my playing 100%. That’s not fair to me or to the audience. Leave your kids with a babysitter you have lots of confidence in.

Just last week, I broke this cardinal rule of mine. Well, it was a private party, and the kids were invited especially to play with the other kids there, and frankly, I felt it would be a breach of social etiquette to refuse. But, never again! The videotape they made of the party showed me, in the middle of Shucking The Corn, breaking away from the mike and fiercely whispering, “Christopher! Christopher! Don’t you touch that fiddle! Don’t you touch it! Put it down! Put it down! ” And playing Flint Hill Special was a disaster because Christopher was prancing around in front of the band balancing a potholder on his head. I was in stitches, and completely flubbed the ending by detuning the second string instead of the third. Never again!

Tip 5: Don’t use being a girl as an excuse for anything—good or bad. Especially don’t use it as an excuse for mediocre picking! Carry your own banjo case.

And finally, ignore all Slack-Jawed-Bimbos who have the audacity to try to strike up conversation with the comment, “You’re pretty good for a girl.” I don’t guess that we’ll ever stop hearing that, but a calm “Thank you” would be a sufficient answer. Don’t simper. After nine years of professional playing, I heard one of the standard variations on that again this week-end: “You’re the best lady banjer picker I ever heered.” What can I say? We were twenty miles from the nearest flush toilet, so maybe I was.

Sometimes the best compliments are the ones you don’t hear at all. Just being accepted into a group of good pickers is a supreme compliment. You don’t have to prove anything, just pick and enjoy. My own personal favorite compliment is one I never heard.

We were playing a festival down here in Florida with the Johnson Mountain Boys and, typically for that spring, it was cold and pouring rain. So, to entertain the loyal fans who were still sticking it out, the Johnson Mountain Boys and Red and Murphy & Co. got on stage for a jam session—no microphones, mind you, it was too wet—just a good ole acoustic jam session, where you usually can’t hear anything but the banjo (fortunately not the case that day). Dudley Connell (guitar) and Richard Underwood (banjo) had just put the finishing touches on their tuning when Dudley launched into his terrific, ninety-mile-an-hour rendition of John Henry Was A Steel Driving Man. I was standing there vamping, trying to make my fingers move in that cold, wet air, when I got the nod from Dudley to take a break. I jumped down into first position and let her fly, just hoping I wouldn’t break a string, drop a pick, or forget how to do a forward roll.

I needn’t have worried. After the first phrase I saw Dudley look over at Richard, and Richard look back at Dudley, and Dudley was grinning,  and Richard was grinning, and I felt like I wanted to burst wide open, but I didn’t. Instead, I just finished up my break with a few Ralph Stanley chokes (in Richard’s honor) and led into the next verse. That was one of the greatest compliments I’d ever received about my picking and they never said a word.

(July 1983)


Note: [I added this note to book And There You Have It .] This was the second article I wrote for BNL.  I remember that aggressive, bright-eyed, hell-bent-for-leather, excited, determined, yet vulnerable little banjo player. She was very  young. An older, calmer, slowed-down version of her is editing this book. I suppose now, the title of this column would be politically incorrect. But back then, I felt like a girl.


PS: Adding this note right now, June 5, 2013: Wow! How fascinating to realize that all these thoughts, ideas, and feelings would eventually become part of my new book, Pretty Good for a Girl.

PPS: Careful readers will note that I FINALLY changed the gender in Tip 4: Kids. As originally written and reprinted in my first book, I'd used the default gender which was male. I just now realized how stupid it was for me to be talking about MY KID, Casey, who was a girl, using the male gender! As you can see, I was as caught up in the cultural stereotypes and "norms" as anyone. It took me a long to break old habits! DUH!







MusicTomes.com published this excellent interview with Murphy a few days ago (written by Eric Banister) and has graciously given us permission to reprint it (reblog it?). You can read the original here.

Murphy Hicks Henry Is Pretty Good. Period!

May 24, 2013

In the history of music, the contributions of females is often overlooked or minimized. Murphy Hicks Henry aims to help correct that in bluegrass music. In her fantastic new book, Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass takes an entertaining and informative look at the contributions of women to the history, and the future, of one of America’s original forms of music.

Music Tomes: This book is already being compared to Neil Rosenberg’s Bluegrass: A Historyand Bob Cantwell’s Bluegrass Breakdown as far as its importance to the ongoing study of bluegrass. How do you feel about those comparisons?HenryS13

Murphy Hicks Henry: I am blown away by those comparisons! I feel like I’m on cloud nine. I own a well-marked copy of Neil’s book, Bluegrass: A History purchased when it first came out in 1985. It actually falls open on page where he talks about Louise Scruggs! I learned so much about the history of bluegrass by reading his book, and often used it as a reference for other writing projects before I starting writing my book. Then, when I first got to work on my book, I set Neil’s book up in my mind as the “gold standard” I wanted to reach. I wanted my book to be as good as Neil’s. I wanted it to be that detailed, that thorough, that “authoritative.” Neil is so insightful and had done so much research and was actually THERE when much of this history was happening. Finally, of course, I realized I couldn’t be Neil, I couldn’t write my book like Neil wrote his. I had to write my own book. But I still have the utmost reverence for his book and I consider Neil a good friend. He was always available, by email, to answer any questions that came up during my own research and writing and was always gracious. Having said all that, I did grow to realize that there were few women included in Neil’s book. And, to his credit, Neil has told me that he wished he had included more women. So, adding these women back into the history of bluegrass was one of my goals in writing my book.

I also have a copy of Bob Cantwell’s Bluegrass Breakdown. It, too, is marked up, although less so than Neil’s book. Bob’s book was harder for me to digest simply because he delved so deeply into the technicalities of the music itself and, as a “by ear” player I found his explanations hard to follow. It was less about people, and more about the esoteric aspects of the music. Still, it offered many insights into the music which I enjoyed reading about.

MT: How does a genre, or more specifically its practitioners, go about moving away from a climate that discourages by inaction the participation of females?

MHH: Oh my! This is a tough question! And I’m glad you noted that the discouragement of women in bluegrass is “inactive,” rather than an active, visible discouragement. This “inaction” is often hard to see, which makes it harder to rectify. One answer (out of many) would be for the “practitioners” to keep an open mind regarding women’s participation especially when it comes to the singing. Women don’t sound like men when they sing bluegrass–keep an open mind about this. Women sing in different keys from men–keep an open mind about playing in those keys. Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent have done a great job of getting people to accept women’s voices in bluegrass. Another answer is to think outside the box about ways to encourage women to participate in bluegrass. My banjo-playing daughter and I are putting on an All Women’s Banjo Camp this July. It has been our experience that most attendees at bluegrass camps are men. We hope that if we offer an all-female space that women will feel more comfortable about their playing. No one likes to fall on her face when learning a new skill but women seem to feel particularly uncomfortable doing this when men are around. For many reasons.

Other short answers : Festival promoters could hire more bands with women in them. This makes women more visible to other women (and to the men, too). Radio DJs could play more songs that feature women as singers or pickers. Do you have to dig deeper to do this? Yes, you do. Again, you have to think outside the box! Steve Martin could give his $50,000 banjo prize to a woman! Players who are members of the International Bluegrass Music Association (our professional trade organization) could think outside the box and vote for more women for our annual awards. Yes, you do have to think harder, but there are plenty of women out there on the road working just as hard as the men are! They just often aren’t as visible. (On radio or at festivals. It’s a Catch-22.)

MT: I found your discussion of the “rare female” very interesting. Did you find that feeling in other musicians you interviewed?

MHH: Yes, I did. The other women didn’t use the words Rare Female, but over and over I heard the phrase “I was the only one” or, as Jeanie West put it, “I was it.” But then, interestingly enough, later in the interview almost everyone would go on to mention other women who were out there playing. They would say, “Of course, there was Gloria Belle.” Or Wilma Lee. Or the Lewis Family sisters. Even Sierra Hull, who is a young mandolin player in her early twenties, said she felt like she was the “only female around” in jam sessions. Clearly, we were not “seeing” each other. But I also think that the whole culture of bluegrass is so “male” (at least that was the way I experienced it) that women felt very lonely. I know I did. Even as I tried to “macho” my way through by being as “male-like” as possible. That became much more difficult when I was pregnant! I do feel like this is changing some nowadays, although perhaps today I simply choose to play music in situations where I feel more comfortable.

MT: Was there anything in your interviews or research that surprised you?

MHH: Honestly, it surprised me that there were so many women out there so early on. Their presence simply hadn’t been documented before. And I think there are many more out there still waiting to be found. I had to limit my own research to finding women who had recorded (and were thus “visible”) or who had been mentioned in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine which didn’t start publication until 1966. I hope someone else will undertake the gargantuan task of looking for the women who played locally and never hit the “big time.”

The other thing that surprised me was how many women used the expression “I was eat up with it” to describe their passion for bluegrass, especially when they first discovered it and were in the throes of learning to play. Again, I thought I was the only woman who felt that!

MT: What are you currently working on?

MHH: Publicity and promotion for Pretty Good for a Girl! I haven’t yet started another book project. I will be curious to see if any offers come my way.

MT: Can you recommend some of your favorite music tomes?

MHH: Oh yeah! One of the books that inspired me during the writing of my own book was Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s by Sherrie Tucker. Few people believed her when she made the claim that there had been hundreds of all-women swing band in the 1940s. She found them! And, although she was writing about swing music, she made me aware that bluegrass texts, too, are not “gender neutral,” they are “histories of musical men.” Another much-loved book is Finding Her Voice: The Saga of Women in Country Music by Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann. It, too, is copiously underlined and falls open at the chapter on women in bluegrass! I also loved Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone: The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg. Great story of Sara and Maybelle Carter!

Other favorites include Ramblin’ Rose: The Life and Career of Rose Maddox by Jonnie Whiteside;Pressing Own: The Roni Stoneman Story by Roni Stoneman as told to Ellen Wright; The Stonemans: An Appalachian Family and the Music That Shaped Their Lives by Ivan Tribe; Country Music U.S.A  by Bill Malone; A Good-Natured Riot by Charles Wolfe; Pickin’ On Peachtree by Wayne W. Daniel; and, I have to include Peter Guralnick’s biographies about Elvis, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. I could continue on….I love the history of music and musicians!

bookstore window

Look! There's Murphy's book!! Right next to Davis Sedaris!!!

Things to keep in mind:

June 8, Saturday: Book signing at the Winchester Book Gallery, 3 pm


June 21, Friday: Longest Day Jam 9 am-9pm. Winchester. If you can't come you can donate online. We've already raised $2685!!!


July 19-21: First Women's Banjo Camp!!!! in Winchester. Spread the word! We still have room for more women!




Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Folks, I'm heading to Nashville Thursday morning, so I won't be blogging about our 24th Tip Jar Jam (unless I can find time to do it from my laptop while I'm away....not likely!)


I'm going to Nashville to give the first presentation on my book, Pretty Good For A Girl: Women in Bluegrass. I'll be speaking at the prestigious International County Music Conference held at Belmont University in Nashville. I've presented papers there twice before, the first one on Sally Ann Forrester, the second on Bessie Lee Mauldin, both of whom are are in my book. So, I'm not as nervous about this presentation as I might be.


I really enjoy this conference because I get to rub elbows with many of the major writers in the bluegrass and country music field. So I've gotten to meet that late Charles Wolfe, who wrote a number of excellent books, including Good-Natured Riot, a wonderful book about the Grand Ol' Opry; Nolan Porterfield who wrote the definitive biography of Jimmy Rodgers; Bill Malone, who wrote the earliest and best book on the history of country music, Country Music U.S.A.; Wayne Daniel, who wrote Pickin' On Peachtree, a book about country music in Georgia; and Richard Smith, who wrote Can't You Hear Me Callin', the biography of Bill Monroe that stirred up so much ire in the bluegrass community. And lots of others.


So my paper is written and I've been practicing my performance, recording it on my I-Phone! I will speak for about 22 minutes and then answer a few questions.


Now, about the title of this blog! [Minimal bluegrass content.] Our local square dance club, the Apple Valley Squares, held a big dance last Friday night which featured a fast and furious caller who kept us hopping! And thirsty! The host club always provides snacks and drinks, so my friend Becky said she and her husband Tommy would be bringing the drinks, the "soda pop" as they call it up here. Or sometimes just "pop." Or sometimes just "soda." Very Northern. Down in Georgia, we called everything Coke (short for Coca-Cola; even shorter than Co'- Cola). We even called Sprite Coke as in "What kind of Coke do you want?" "I think I'll have a Sprite."


Well, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Coke drinker. And I don't mean Diet Coke, either. Or Coke Zero. I want your honest-to-goodness Classic Coca-Cola. No Pepsi products for me. No RC. No Shasta Cola. (Remember that???) And I knew Tommy was also a Coke drinker so I didn't bother to grab a cold can of Coke out of the fridge to bring along, since I knew there would be plenty of Coke there.


Imagine my surprise and dismay when I got to the dance to find NO Coca-Cola. Only two big liter bottles of some off-brand drink. Yuck. Naturally, I complained to Becky. "Where's the Coke? I thought for sure you'd be bringing Coke!" I've forgotten what her reply was, but it sure didn't seem like a big deal to her. So I settled on drinking water. But I had been hoping for a caffeine boost, since I had been babysitting all day!


So we danced a few dances and I was drinking my water and eating my No Bake Cookies which were fast disappearing (which is always gratifying). Then after one dance, I walked back to the eats table to see a great big liter bottle of Coke sitting there. Becky was also close by, as was her daughter Sara. I said, "What's this?" Becky says, "You said you wanted Coke!" I said, "Did you call Sara and have her bring down a bottle of Coke?" "YES!" was Becky's reply. (They do live near by and Becky is a mover and shaker, a "get 'er done" girl.)


I turned to Sara, a perky twenty-something who was looking cute as a bug in her nursing uniform, having just gotten off her shift. I said, warmly, "Thank you! I really appreciate your bringing this." Her extremely swift reply was: "Is it worth a free guitar lesson?" Well! With everyone standing right there looking at me, what could I say but, "Sure!" (I knew from Becky that Sara had been "fooling" with the guitar, as the saying goes.) I also quickly added, "You are your mother's daughter!" And that, folks, is how I ended up paying $30 for a liter bottle of Coca-Cola!


Postscript: Later on during a break in the dancing I was rehashing all this with Sara's dad, Tommy. (Square dancers love to rehash!) Tommy said, "I think Becky put Sara up to that." "Really?" I said. "Yeah," said Tommy, "she'd have never thought of that on her own."


So naturally, the next time I met Becky at snack table (where we gravitate after every dance!) and she and I were rehashing my $30 bottle of Coke and laughing, I said, "Did you put Sara up to saying that?" She said, "No! I did not. She thought of it all by herself!" "Really?" I said, "Tommy was sure it was you!" "Nope," said the proud mother, "it was all Sara!" Indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree. And I guess Sara fell on the Becky side of the tree, because I know Tommy would never have done anything like that!


I guess I'll be giving my Coca-Cola lesson when I get back from Nashville. Who knows? Maybe I'll get Sara hooked on playing bluegrass! That would so be worth $30!


And that, folks, is your blog for this week!


The trailer for Murphy's new book is up! Watch her talk a little and play a little:

You can read more about the new book here and you can order it here.

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.