The History Of Women in Kentucky Traditional Music

John Harrod, an accomplished fiddler and member of Kentucky Wild Horse, talks about the history women have played in traditional music in Kentucky. In this one hour long talk he tells stories and anecdotes about some of the women who were important in the development of early music in the region. The presentation is both entertaining and informative.

Presented by John Harrod
at The Morehead Old Time Music Festival July 30, 2013

(Full video of this show appears below)

“I can’t claim to be an authority on women’s music, much less women themselves. I only come at this from a place of awe and reverence. Having heard these sounds all my life and I followed some of the siren songs further than I should have back in the days when Asa Martin said, “I was just trying to farther myself.”

I first heard my mother, who had a beautiful voice, much better than mine, a deep alto voice, but very sweet and warm, singing in the Bagdad Baptist Church. I was warmed and enlivened by that voice before I ever knew what was happening to me. I would ask her to sing to me at home but for reasons only known to herself she would only sing in church.

My life, I guess following music, had its beginning in the sound of that voice and that sound has called to me over many years from many different places. I have come to believe that, just like the fiddle, it’s all one sound and it comes from the heart of creation.

The way I got into this, I was asked to put this program together by Richard Taylor for the freshman class of the Transylvania University in the fall of 2012. Or I would have never done this.

The freshman class had been assigned to read Mary Ann Taylor-Hall’s novel Come and Go Molly Snow about a young female bluegrass fiddler and singer who works her way in to a bluegrass band, set in Lexington, Kentucky. So I put together a program to show a little bit about Carrie Mullins’ forebears. The ones who blazed the trail.

It gave me to opportunity to kinda look back at my life and the music I had listened to and all the ways that I had been influenced by women and women singers in particular. So going back and just isolating and listening to the tunes. The music that was played by many women, some of who I knew and got to play with myself, some I knew just through recordings. I became aware how over time I had learned to listen in new ways to old music and that listening itself is kind of an ongoing journey. The same way that we learn to play an instrument we also have to learn how to listen.

An old man I once knew said, in honest amazement, the first time he heard a professional opera singer. He said, “It sounds like she’s treed something’ don’t it?” He was listening for sure, and he was responding. He was relating it what he heard and knew from his own experience.”  Excerpt from the video of John Harrod’s presentation at The 8th Annual Morehead Old Time Music Festival in Morehead, Ky July 30, 2013.

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More about John Harrod and The Morehead Old Time Music Festival

The Morehead Old Time Music Festival takes place during the last full weekend of July at the Jaycee Farm in Morehead, Kentucky. Make plans now to be there next time! Details from the official website

Morehead Old Time Music Festival

Kentucky Wild Horse, John Harrod, Don Rogers, Jesse Wells, and Roddy Puckett, plays roots music from Kentucky traditions – old time, bluegrass, fiddle tunes, hillbilly swing, and original songs. They perform and conduct workshops throughout the upper south. Reach out to them of Facebook

Kentucky Wildhorse

 Kentucky Wildhorse at the Clack Mountain Festival


Kentucky Wild Horse – Down In Old Kentucky




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