The “thirteen hundred fifty-two guitar pickers in Nashville” were only “mothers’ sons” when John Sebastian’s “Nashville Cats” brought Music City session musicians into the spotlight in 1966.
Three of the women who’ve also “been playin’ since they’s babies” to keep Nashville in tune are speaking their minds on music in a panel discussion that’s part of a new oral history project by the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.
The online conversation premiered Nov. 24 and is available above and at www.mtsu.edu/popmusic.
In it, Tiffany Minton, the center’s graduate assistant who created and is compiling “The Women Musicians in Nashville Oral History Project,” and MTSU history professor and ethnomusicologist Kristine McCusker talk with:
• Ellen Angelico, a multi-instrumentalist and touring and session-recording musician.
• Megan Coleman, a drummer, DJ and songwriter.
• Judy Rodman, a singer-songwriter, producer, author and vocal coach.
Angelico, whose guitar wizardry took her to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and then headfirst into a honky-tonk education along Nashville’s Lower Broadway, has played her way into international tours with bands ranging from Uncle Kracker to Delta Rae to her current work with country sensation Cam.
She’s a 2020 Americana Honors & Awards nominee for instrumentalist of the year as well as a recording artist, session musician and community activist working to make country music more diverse and inclusive.
Coleman, raised in a musical family, has been a part of Nashville’s music business for more than 15 years, most recently drumming for country artist Lucie Silvas. Her musicianship crosses genres, and she’s known for adding electronic beats to her old-school percussion in both live performances and studio sessions.
She set the beat for multi-Grammy-nominated artist Yola’s “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” October performance from the Ryman Auditorium, playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” as part of a session-musician supergroup.
Rodman’s been making music since childhood, finding her professional voice in her teens as an advertising jingle singer and backup vocalist. By 1986, Rodman had a country record deal and a debut album featuring a No. 1 single, “Until I Met You,” and her membership in the late 1980s-early ’90s wave of female country chart-toppers also scored two top-10 singles: “Girls Ride Horses Too” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.”
After her label closed, Rodman moved into producing and songwriting, giving LeAnn Rimes a No. 1 hit, “One Way Ticket,” and added vocal training and coaching to her repertoire.
Minton, who’s working toward her master’s degree in MTSU’s Public History Program, has a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and is a former program director for Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities, or YEAH!
She’s also a social activist, musician and music-focused sociologist and educator. She and Angelico have worked together with Nashville’s annual concert tribute to ‘50s and ‘60s girl groups, “She’s a Rebel.”
She studies music through the cultural and social context of the people who create it, often focusing on gender and on historical aspects of country music.
The Center for Popular Music at MTSU, part of the College of Media and Entertainment, is one of the world’s oldest and largest research centers devoted to studying American folk and popular music from the early 18th century to the present.
The center’s Grammy-winning record label, Spring Fed Records, focuses on the traditional music of Tennessee and the South. Spring Fed recently released its first CD recorded in MTSU’s studios, the old-time fiddle music “Tennessee Breakdown.”
The Center for Popular Music also develops and sponsors programs in American vernacular music and presents special concerts, lectures and events for the campus community.
For more information on the Center for Popular Music and its projects and special events, visit www.mtsu.edu/popmusic.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)