View Full Version : Queen of Bluegrass?

May-02-2004, 3:10pm
Hey All,

The "brother style" duet got me to thinking (rare of course)... I'm wondering who is/was the "queen" of bluegrass? Bluegrass has a king of course in big Mon but who is his counterpart?

In country just as quick as you say Hank Sr is king you say Patsy Cline is queen. Some people would recognise Mother Maybelle as the grandmother. I've never heard an equivalent for bluegrass. Why?

Just Wonderin... Take Care! -Ed-

May-02-2004, 3:52pm
I believe that title, as to originators of that gender, would go to Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard.

May-02-2004, 4:34pm
Or how about Wilma Lee Cooper??

Jonathan Reinhardt
May-02-2004, 5:02pm
Second that Wilma Lee Cooper.

May-02-2004, 6:28pm
I always thought the "King" of Bluegrass was Jimmy Martin. Monroe would be considered the "Father" of Bluegrass. As far as the "Queen", I nominate Rhonda Vincent as the current candidate! And she even plays the mandolin!

Scotti Adams
May-02-2004, 6:43pm
..now..when John Duffy used to do his "Big Bruce" imitation I thought that was the "Queen" of Bluegrass.. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Jonathan Reinhardt
May-02-2004, 7:55pm
Now Scotti, I think this was in reference to significant women in the genre. Altho I agree the terms king and queen may be a bit misleading.

May-02-2004, 8:38pm
Bessie Lee, the Carolina Songbird!!!!

May-02-2004, 8:44pm
Hazel Dickens first, but Rose Maddox rules. Her record with Monroe, Reno and Smiley is one of the best records in bluegrass, period.

May-02-2004, 9:31pm
Quote from Roundup magazine 'The Wall Street Journal has dubbed her The New Queen of Bluegrass," referring to Rhonda Vincent'

Lynn Morris is certainly a contender for the title too. I don't know if she plays mandolin but sure picks the heck out of guitar and banjo.

Bruce Evans
May-03-2004, 6:09am
I thought sure someone would say Alison Krauss, but then she doesn't really play bluegrass.* I'll agree with Rhonda Vincent. I've never heard of most of those other ladies.

*Neither does Nickel Creek

May-03-2004, 6:58am
Hazel Dickens is a fine folk singer but not bluegrass. She is more in the folk activist camp, (Mike Seeger is a mentor) mountain ballads, etc. There was a nice program on LINK tv about her recently. Reigning queen would have to be AK regardless of her progressive BG direction. Rhonda is good but not the instrumentalist or singer.

May-03-2004, 7:00am
Another vote for Hazel and Alice.

Atlanta Mando Mike
May-03-2004, 7:39am
Oh come on, if you mean by queen the most important and influential woman in bluegrass then hands down it goes to Alison Krause. She isn't as bluegrass as she once was but Bill Monroe recorded with an organ player once!!

May-03-2004, 8:57am
"Oh come on". Wilma Lee Cooper was out there running the roads and playing Bluegrass before AK and RV were born. She was the first female Bluegrass Band Boss. Stoney Cooper was only along for the ride. AK and RV might be considered "ladies in waiting" or some such as that, but for now it's got to be Wilma Lee Cooper.

May-03-2004, 9:18am
Wilma Lee Cooper!! - Love that lady! - In my "prime"(!?).., I would have worked for her - for just "expenses"!- for the sheer joy of being a small part of the wonderful music she and her husband created - and the "goosebumps" I STILL get listening to it!... - Her style has never been equalled(although I - and probably she - wouldn't call it Bluegrass. "Mountain"...maybe..!?..) - Just my .02 & IMHO. Thanks to the above posters for the "heads-up' to a great entertainer AND lady. Moose. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

May-03-2004, 12:10pm
I think Alison Krause has promoted and advanced blue grass to the masses more than any other recent female singer or player. Rhonda Vincent is great too, but most of the general public does not know her yet.
I need to check out this older gal, Wilma's music.

Pete Martin
May-03-2004, 12:21pm
A friend of mine played in a band called Queens Bluegrass (named for the leader, Ernie Queens). They appeared in the Darrington (WA) Bluegrass Festival program as "Bluegrass Queens". Caused a bit of laughter in the campgrounds.

Darrington is known for those kinds of things. They once sold a T shirt to celebrate their 25th year as a festival. The shirt had a logo under which was written "25th Anniverery" :-)

May-03-2004, 1:08pm
I will put in a vote for Alison Krauss....just not a big fan of RV.....Hazel Dickens history in Bluegrass and roots in the Appalachias would definetly put her ahead of all the early women in Bluegrass.

I will say that if we are going to a "Royal Court" that Amanda Smith could definetly be in there.Not quite been around long enough to be Queen, but definetly a Princess.

May-03-2004, 1:18pm
Hey All,

I started this thread and I'm even more curious than before. The names brought up Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard , Wilma Lee Cooper, Bessie Lee - who are these people? Monroe, Jim an Jessie, Ralph Stanley, the Osbornes, etc were all significant (to say the least) singers who had recognition. None of those ladies mentioned did that I know of. Why? In country Patsy Cline was huge and I'm guessin (tho I don't know) of the same era as some of the ladies mentioned. maybe I'm just really uninformed.

Of course I know AK an RV but I wonder if some of their current recognition is due to the popularity of maybe OBWAT?

It strikes me that bluegrass for some period (long?) of time was basically uniquely male dominated or at least only the male stars were widely known. Why? Any thots?

Enquirin minds want to know...

Take Care! -Ed-

May-03-2004, 1:33pm
Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard were considered the 1st women of bluegrass. They put out 2 bluegrass albums in the early 60's. Young David Grisman produced and played on them, as did Chubby Wise and other notables. They were recently inducted into the Smithsonian Institution for those works.

Hazel and Alice both make their livings now doing more traditional stuff, but both have made a lot of great bluegrass along the way. Check out the Strange Creek Singers.

May-03-2004, 1:35pm
My vote goes for Wilma Lee Cooper. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif (Just love this little guy...obvious a Monroe style player!!)

May-03-2004, 1:47pm
See: www.spbgma.com/level2.wilmacooper.html

May-03-2004, 2:18pm
There was a really nice PBS program that was centered around the Coal Mines of Eastern Ky/WestVirg during the 40's thru the early 70's that aired about 2 months back.

In that show there was alot about Hazel...apparently she was a Heckraiser during that time period against the Stripminers and government, who so badly abused that region of appalachia.In todays culture she could be labeled as a "RedNeck Woman" like that new country song http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Tom C
May-03-2004, 2:31pm
Sam Bush says that he, himself, must be the mother of bluegrass. Whenever Bill Monroe would see him walk by he'd say "There goes the mother".

May-03-2004, 2:48pm
If you can say that Hazel is a folk singer you've never heard the Hazel and Alice records from the 60s with Chubby Wise, Dave Grisman and Lamar Grier. She has and had one of the best bluegrass voices out there. Her duet with Bill Monroe on the live Smithsonian recordings is incredible as well. She's also one of the finest bluegrass songwriters -- my favorite is "Just a Few Old Memories". I don't care what she sings now, she's given more to bluegrass than just about anyone out there.

Wilma Cooper was great too.

May-03-2004, 3:44pm
Hazel Dickens, period. #Check out The Pioneering Women Of Bluegrass with Alice Gerrard and then try and tell me she ain't a bluegrass singer!

Tim Saxton
May-03-2004, 3:46pm
One vote..........Hazel Dickens

Tim Saxton

May-03-2004, 3:51pm
It strikes me that bluegrass for some period (long?) of time was basically uniquely male dominated or at least only the male stars were widely known. Why? Any thots?
One could probably make that argument for any genre of music. #It's a fairly recent phenomenon that brings us stars like Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and Lynn Morris. #But Hazel Dickens has been doing it for a long time and will always be the "queen" of bluegrass in my mind!

May-03-2004, 6:57pm
Hey All,

Quote (EasyEd @ May 03 2004, 11:18)
It strikes me that bluegrass for some period (long?) of time was basically uniquely male dominated or at least only the male stars were widely known. Why? Any thots?

mandopete said "One could probably make that argument for any genre of music. It's a fairly recent phenomenon that brings us stars like Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and Lynn Morris. But Hazel Dickens has been doing it for a long time and will always be the "queen" of bluegrass in my mind!"

I realize that this has a lot of truth in it but in more mainstream country women were croonin out the hits over the radio long ago. I grew up in small town Montana listenin to Hank Sr, Kitty Wells, Jeanie Sheppard, Patsy Cline, Patsy Montana, Ernest Tubb, Tennesee Ernie Ford an later Johnny Cash Marty Robbins Eddy Arnold, Portner Waggoner, Loretta Lynn, Dolly parton, etc. Interspersed was always Bill Monroe, Jim an Jesse an the like but never as I recall women bluegrass singers. I was just curious.

I been listenin to Hazel Dickens samples an see I have a void in my musical upbringin. Must buy some Hazel an some others too I suspect. Thanks to all for supplyin some names.

Take Care! -Ed-

AKUS fan
May-07-2004, 1:44pm
Hmm, well, as a youngin', I really don't know much about the older female singers. But I can tell you that Alison Krauss is who got me into real traditional bluegrass when I bought her earlier albums. To me, she will always be the queen. Second would be Rhonda Vincent. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Atlanta Mando Mike
May-07-2004, 2:17pm
Alison Krause had her most succesful album, which went platinum, and something like 8 grammies before Oh brother. By the way she is the second most grammy winning female artist in history, behind the queen of soul Aretha Franklin, she might evenhave surpassed her this last grammy season. She has to be the queen of something???Open to suggestions

AKUS fan
May-07-2004, 3:53pm
By the way she is the second most grammy winning female artist in history, behind the queen of soul Aretha Franklin, she might evenhave surpassed her this last grammy season. #
She did surpass Aretha Franklin. Alison is the female with the most Grammys ever. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

May-07-2004, 10:12pm
There is a fantastic John Sayles film called "Matewan" (pronounced mate waan) about the bloody true life West Virginia coal strikes where Hazel Dickens plays a "real" mountain woman/singer. I once saw the Doug Dillard band with Ginger Boatwright, Kathy Chiavola and Billy Constable; I don't know about Queens, but they certainly deserve honourable mention.

May-13-2004, 11:34pm
I have the same birthday as Bill Monroe. That's gotta count for somethin'! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

May-14-2004, 7:54am
The scene of Hazel Dickens singing in 'Matewan' is worth the price of admission to the movie and a lot more!!!

May-14-2004, 8:35am
Y'all can have Rhonda. Hazel Dickens or Wilma Lee Cooper get my original vote.

Currently Alison Krauss gets my vote.

Tom C
May-14-2004, 8:53am
"....She has and had one of the best bluegrass voices out there"
-I do not think I've ever heard her sing in key. Most times not even close.

John Flynn
May-14-2004, 9:14am
After seeing them in concert, I would nominate Suzanne and Evelyn Cox of the Cox family. Allison Krauss introduced them as have influenced every female singer in bluegrass and having been a big influence on her. When those two get cranked up on a harmony, it sets you back in your seat and sends chills up your spine! Suzanne is a credible mando player also!

May-14-2004, 9:35am
In re Hazel DIckens and singing in key. First that's an overstatement. But, for me, one of the things that makes bluegrass sound really authentic -- like Dr. Ralph and Bill -- is that it holds on to some of the weird scales of old time music that appear not to have the same sort of tempered intervals that we are used to. In terms of 440 it sounds flat, but to me its an essential part of the longing sad sound of bluegrass. I find that singers who have learned from ear training and pitch training, as opposed to just by singing with others in this form, often sound sterile and boring -- like they are singing pop music in a bluegrass context. Same goes for Irish singers and blues singers -- no surprise. The people who say that Bill Monroe sounds like a cat screeching or whatever just don't like bluegrass as far as I'm concerned. They like acoustic pop music.

May-14-2004, 11:26am
I remember hearing Alison Kraus, of all people, say she liked Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe because when they sing, there's little difference than when they speak.

This isn't just a bluegrass thing: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Norman Blake, Doc Watson just to name a few show this, as well. I think there is an inherent charisma in their voices...you never need ask, "Who is that signing?" It is not something they can teach you in a conservatory.

May-14-2004, 12:03pm
Rhonda Vincent!!!!!! NOT

My vote is for Alison..

Scotti Adams
May-14-2004, 12:11pm
Rhonda Vincent!!!!!! NOT

My vote is for Alison..

Darryl Wolfe
May-14-2004, 12:16pm
Come on guys....Honorable mention at least has to go to Gloria Belle...one the most famous ambassadors of Bluegrass (and other things)....with Wilma Lee taking home the grand prize.

May-14-2004, 12:42pm
f5journl: THANK YOU! no one can "deliver" a song like Wilma Lee(IMHO)- and yes..., Gloria Belle(sp.) - the "counterpart" of Bessie Lee - (for Jimmy Martin) - "Behind every sucessful man..., there's a woman" ... or so the story goes.. hee.. hee.. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

May-14-2004, 2:13pm
How come nobody's mentioned Michael Jackson. Isn't he the queen of something?

Father of (or Mother of) means they "begat" the thing. AK certainly didn't invent bluegrass.
King of (or Queen of) means the undisputed master. She's not really a purist, so how can AK be the master of the art form? And how do album sales figure into the royalty designation? How does a Ricky Skaggs, for instance, compare to a Monroe in album sales?

But I vote fore AK anyway. I grew up with East TN bluegrass uncles and I hated it (A real shame, too. Could have learned alot from them). Anyway, hardcore bluegrass (mountain music, American primitive, whatever) is an aquired taste and Allison (and Gillian Welch, who is hardly bluegrass) eased me back into the fold.

May-14-2004, 3:49pm
I wouldn't say Hazel and Alice. Tho they've done bluegrass. There's quite a few older ones I would suggest as Queen. Wilma Lee prob would get most votes although They kinda had their own style; and she was w/Stoney. I would put forth MOLLY O'DAY. Much of her music is from the 50's
s. Monroe played on some of her albums. Her songs have been adopted into the repretore of bluegrass. AK's not so, Hazel &Alice not so.. ..

May-14-2004, 8:39pm
This is the first mention I ever heard of Bill Monroe playing on Molly O'Day's albums. Are you sure???
I know he played on Rose Maddox's Bluegrass album, for sure.

May-15-2004, 6:06am
It is hard to beat a hand with five queens. I've become a fan of the New Coon Creek Girls: Dale Ann Bradley, vocals and guitar; Ramona Church Taylor, vocals and banjo; Vicki Simmons, vocals and bass; Pam Perry, vocals and mandolin; Deanie Richardson, vocals and fiddle. Does anybody else like this band? Are there any other all-girl bluegrass bands out there?

May-15-2004, 2:30pm

Hazel is one of the most played songwriters in bluegrass! On what basis are you saying her songs have not been adopted in the repertoire!

Are you sure you aren't thinking of Rose Maddox. I love her and think that she, Wilma Cooper and Hazel are the three Queens!

For modern singers my favorite is Lynn Morris. Love her, hope she's recovered from the stroke.

May-17-2004, 9:08am
Bowfinger..: Thanks for the "heads-up" for Molly O'Day!! - Shame on me for not mentioning her. I believe Wilma Lee gives much "credit" to her for developing her(Wilma Lee's) style of "delivery" - and DO it(!) she surely does!!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

May-17-2004, 9:42am
I was out of my mind. It is ROSE MADDOX NOT MOLLEY ODAY. I stand corrected. my vote is for ROSE.

floyd floar
May-17-2004, 10:31am
HEY!! Ain't none of yas mentioned Tammy Sullivan or her Ladies-in-waiting, the Lewis sisters. And that's gospel- yuk-yuk:D http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

May-18-2004, 12:39pm
Yeah...or the Chicks...who actually DID play some pretty mean bluegrass before they "grew up". http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif


May-18-2004, 1:59pm
Another vote for Alison. Yeah, she has a few recent albums that aren't bluegrass, but I have all her early stuff, and it's pure bluegrass. I first saw her in 1989, she must have been only 18 or 19. Been hooked ever since!

Probably not even close to "queen of bluegrass" but I also love the work Lauri Lewis did with Grant Street.

AKUS fan
May-19-2004, 4:29pm
Yeah...or the Chicks...who actually DID play some pretty mean bluegrass before they "grew up". http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

So true. The old Chicks music rocks (in a bluegrass way, lol). They still rock at all the bluegrass instruments they play: fiddle, mandolin, Dobro, banjo, guitar, bass, and more. Besides my favorite musician (Alison Krauss), I am completely in love with the Chicks' music. Old, new, whatever. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif