The Skelly Suggests…Three Mary’s, Three Guitars

3 Mary's 3 Guitars by JOtwell (click to buy)
3 Mary’s 3 Guitars by JOtwell (click to buy)

I have added a few videos to the end of this playlist so you see these legendary ladies in action. Enjoy!

 

Three Mary’s, Three Guitars

Spotlight – Mary Osborne

Blues in Mary’s Flat – Mary Osborne

Rose Room – Mary Osborne

Just One of Those Things – Mary Kaye Trio

Lazy Afternoon – Mary Kaye Trio

In the Still of the Night – Mary Kaye Trio

My Heart Belongs to Daddy – Mary Kaye Trio

Summertime – Mary Kaye Trio

Tiger Rag – Les Paul, Mary Ford

How High the Moon – Les Paul, Mary Ford

Vaya Con Dios – Les Paul, Mary Ford

Lover – Les Paul, Mary Ford

Tennessee Waltz – Les Paul, Mary Ford

Mary Kaye Trio on YouTube
 
Mary Ford on YouTube
 
 Mary Osborn track YouTube

There is no footage of Mary playing on this video but this track is amazing and not available on Spotify so please check it out.

 

 

From The Desk… Something in the Way They Play: Legendary Female Guitarists Part 3

3 Mary's 3 Guitars by JOtwell (click to buy)
3 Mary’s 3 Guitars by JOtwell (click to buy)

By the onset of WW II, all the elements of the electric guitar were in place. Once wartime restrictions were eased by 1947, a slew of manufacturers began offering the new amplified instruments to the market. The war had drastically altered the perception of women in the workplace, with Rosie the Riveter serving as an iconic role model, and it was no different in the music world, as women began to pick up the amplified instrument.  Following the pioneering advertising spreads used by National Guitars with Letricia Kandle, the top manufacturers began casting around for attractive women who were reputable players, in order to show their revolutionary product to the widest possible audience.

Gretsch found their girl in Mary Osborne, a big-band guitarist influenced by Charlie Christian. She had built a reputation as a touring musician and was building an impressive discography by recording with notables such as Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Ethel Waters, and Billie Holiday.  Mary photographed with an impressive hauteur, usually decked in the finest evening gowns, cradling one or another of Gretsch’s archtop electrics (most notably the very expensive White Falcon) on the pages of Downbeat and other hip journals. She looked every bit as expensive as the guitars, which was probably Gretsch’s intention.

Gibson didn’t have to look far because Les Paul’s wife and musical partner Mary Ford was already hugely popular. Although her greater contribution to their success was her multi-tracked, pitch perfect vocal harmonizing, she employed her husband’s revolutionary instruments most attractively and convincingly across the media landscape of the time.

The launch of the Fender line, which established the completely solid-body option, was another giant step in the evolution of electric guitar.  But the advertising people continued to see the benefits of having attractive women players attached to their product, so Fender chose Mary Kaye as their figurehead. The Mary Kaye Trio had established themselves as a top-tier lounge attraction in Las Vegas, on the same level as Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, and Mary was tearing them up with her spirited proto-rock chops. A perfect fit for the space‑age Stratocaster! In 1956 The Mary Kaye Trio was the subject of a Fender promotional photo campaign featuring the new swamp-ash blonde Strat with maple neck and gold hardware.  Made in limited numbers, these are now among the most expensive and collectible guitars in the world.

Mary’s own provenance was pretty special. Descended from the royal Hawaiian line of Queen Liliulokalani, she was born Malia Ka’aihue in 1924. She was sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and she certainly did her bit.

The Skelly Suggests… Cotten & Carter, Pickin’ & Scratchin’

Cotten and Carter by JOtwell
Cotten and Carter by JOtwell

Today’s playlist accompanies the learnin’ we engaged in last Thursday. If you missed it, get your playlist started and then check out this entry: http://wp.me/p2W71Q-fP

Pickin’ & Scratchin’

    A Letter From Home
    Ain’t Got No Honey Baby Now
    Ball The Jack
    Black Mountain Rag
    Buck Dance
    Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow
    Freight Train
    Fiddle Solo/In The Pines
    Foggy Mountain Top
    Going Down The Road Feeling Bad
    I Don’t Love Nobody
    I’m Going Away
    Keep On The Sunny Side
    Kitty Puss
    Mama’s Irish Jig
    I’m Leaving You
    Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie
    Pick The Wildwood Flower
    Shake Sugaree
    Sourwood Mountain
    Take Me Back To Baltimore
    There’s A Mother Always Waiting
    Tom Cat’s Kitten
    Untitled/Georgie Buck
    Washington Blues
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Carter Sisters
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Mother Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Johnny Cash
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Carter Sisters
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten

From The Desk… Something in the Way They Play: Legendary Female Guitarists Part 1

The guitar didn’t begin its ascendancy to being the most popular of popular instruments until the mid-1920s, and picked up momentum in the ‘30s with the advent of the electric guitar.

Women had been playing parlor guitars since the late 1800s and the image of the female folk singer earnestly strumming away became iconic from the 50s onward. With the development of electric instruments, it seemed that women were not as accepted playing the electric axe, with its inherent bluster, as they were playing its more muted relation.

In the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, two significant and innovative women emerged from the rural south with acoustic instrumental techniques that would influence generations:  Elizabeth Cotten and Mother Maybelle Carter.

Born Elizabeth Neville, in Carrboro, North Carolina, into a musical family, Elizabeth Cotten was left‑handed and translated her early musical leanings by flipping her brother’s banjo without reversing the strings, a method she then transferred to her first guitar (all of which occurred before Jimi Hendrix was even the faintest glint in his father’s eye). By age thirteen she had already composed the iconic Freight Train, with the signature finger-picking technique that became known as “Cotten-Pickin’”.  Elizabeth eventually drifted into the obscurity of the southern black experience until she was more than 60 years old and working as a housekeeper with the noted Seegar family, of folk music fame, who brought her to well‑deserved attention later in her life.

Elizabeth Cotten by JOtwell
Elizabeth Cotten by JOtwell

In 1967, she recorded an acclaimed album of self-composed children’s songs, Shake Sugaree, and won a Grammy in 1984 for best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for Elizabeth Cotten Live (Arhoolie Records).  She died at the age of 94.

Maybelle Carter, nee Addington, a Virginian by birth, first came to attention in the 1920s as one-third of The Carter Family with her brother-in-law A.P.Carter and his wife Sara, who, being Maybelle’s cousin, kept it in the family in true Appalachian fashion. The Carter Family is rightly celebrated as a cornerstone of the Folk revival, an essential building block of what became country music. Crucial to The Carter Family sound was Maybelle’s innovative and unique guitar style, which became known as the “Carter Scratch”.  In common with Ms. Cotten’s eponymous style, it involved counterpoint in the bass and strumming or picking of the higher strings, a technique later brought to perfection by Chet Atkins (who logged time with The Carter Family in his early career). Even in lesser hands the style became a ubiquitous, indispensable part of guitar technique.

Maybelle Carter by JOtwell
Maybelle Carter by JOtwell

By the 1950s, Maybelle Carter had become the matriarchal figure “Mother Maybelle,” although still only in her forties. She, together with her extended family, including Johnny Cash, who married her daughter June and two other daughters, Helen and Anita, all contributed to “The First Family Of Country Music.”  She remained active in both studio and concert, continuing to showcase her expertise with autoharp and banjo, in addition to her vastly influential guitar playing.  She died at age 69 in 1978.