Cover for McCusker: Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio. Click for larger image

Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels

The Women of Barn Dance Radio

A collective biography of the women who shaped early country and western music

American barn dance radio of the 1920s-1940s evoked comforting images of a nostalgic and stable past for listeners beset by economic problems at home and worried about totalitarian governments abroad. Sentimental images such as the mountain mother and the chaste everybody's-little-sister "girl singer" helped to sell a new consumer culture and move commercial country music from regional fare to national treasure.

Drawing on personal interviews and rich archival material from the Grand Ole Opry, Kristine M. McCusker examines the gendered politics of the images through the lives and careers of six women performers: Linda Parker, the Girls of the Golden West (Milly and Dolly Good), Lily May Ledford, Minnie Pearl, and Rose Lee Maphis.

"McCusker's work sheds a welcome light on a musical movement still in living memory for some but forgotten or never known by others."--Library Journal

"McCusker delves deep into the changing creations and perceptions of female country performers. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"In her engaging and exciting book, McCusker brings the women of barn dance radio to life. Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels is a fascinating story of how these women constructed their public images to showcase a virtuous, all-American character and support the sale of sponsors' products. The women's lively firsthand accounts are delightful!"--Casey Henry, recording artist

"Both entertaining and perceptive, this sweeping study skillfully connects barn dance to the central narratives of American popular culture, touching on constructions of race and class in addition to those of gender and placing barn dance in the context of new technologies, new business practices, and the expansion of consumer culture. McCusker's work requires us to reevaluate not just the role of women in the country industry, but the development of that industry as a whole, and will prove invaluable to any student of American cultural history."--Diane Pecknold, author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry

Kristine M. McCusker is a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University. She is a coeditor of Country Boys and Redneck Women: New Essays in Gender and Country Music.

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