Women of Bluegrass - Hazel & Alice
When Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard teamed up in the early 1960s, they doubled the number of serious female bluegrass artists. The only other women able to make inroads into this male-dominated musical style were Molly O'Day and Wilma Lee Cooper (although she is most often remembered for her years as a duet with husband, Stoney Cooper, Wilma Lee continued her career after Stoney's death.)
Hazel Dickens was born in Mercer County, West Virginia. Her father, a teamster carrying timber for the local coal mines, picked banjo. Her brothers played guitar and mandolin, and Hazel sang in the choir at church. In the 1950s her brothers moved to Baltimore to avoid a dismal life in the coal mines. Hazel followed and began playing and singing in the local clubs and taverns. While in Baltimore Hazel met a classically trained singer named Alice Gerrard. The two formed a friendship and started performing together.
Although mostly known for their renditions of nearly forgotten old-time, mountain, and hillbilly tunes, during the 1960s Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard recorded many bluegrass standards. In 1996 Smithsonian Folkways released a collection of the duo's bluegrass recordings entitled "Pioneering Women of Bluegrass". I consider this recording an essential part of any bluegrass collection.
Get your copy at Smithsonian Folkways or Amazon.