Author: Campbell, Bruce

Feminist Roots to the Father's Day Festival

James Brown said ďItís a manís worldĒ. The same might be said about early bluegrass. Yes, there was Hazel DIckens (famously and importantly), but mostly, it was a male-dominated genre.

In my first year of college, one of the male professors said ďI am a feministĒ, and I was shocked. He explained what he meant - that he was actively committed to the struggle for womenís equality. I respected that, and decided I was a feminist too.

Weíre lucky in California, really. We have been fairly removed from some of the dramatic sociological struggles. Iíve always believed in equality, and was raised in an environment where this was taken for granted. The CBAís history when it comes to women in bluegrass reflects this west coast mentality, too, I think.

Checking the Fatherís Day festivalís history, itís obvious that the CBA was well aware of local feminine bluegrass talent - the Good Old Persons, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick all graced early versions of the CBAís signature festival.

Looking at the bluegrass landscape today, it is replete with strong female stars: Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, Allison Krause, Sierra Hull, Dale Ann Bradley - the list goes on and on. Are the doors wide open now, then?

Maybe, but I am told it wasnít all that long ago when the notion of a female performer in a bluegrass band brought a lot of sneers and grumbles. Admit it - werenít you surprised the first time you saw a female banjo player?

We canít change the past of course, and longtime bluegrass fans have a lengthy history with high lonesome singing by male voices. But who can forget the first time they heard heavenly singing from Laurie Lewis? Can anyone of good conscience insist such talent doesnít belong in the bluegrass pantheon?

Women didnít invade bluegrass. They just lent their talents and love for the genre, and the results have been thrilling. I have been blessed to play alongside a distinctive bluegrass talent in Lynn Quinones, as well as many others over the years, and I think itís fair to say that California is bursting with bluegrass talent, in all the well-known genders. And the California Bluegrass Association deserves a TON of credit for recognizing this a long time ago.
Posted:  6/4/2014

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email