Welcome to the website to document the history of women creating music in Minnesota from 1850 to the present. There is a lot of great talent that is being forgotten and our job is to document and preserve this information and stories of women like you who love music and contributed to Minnesota's history.
Early: it was known that the Native Americans had many tribes here in Minnesota. Women participated in music with the dance at Pow Wow's, wearing traditional outfits, bells on their feet and wrists while men played the drum.
1901: Minnesota Music Teachers Association begins. The mission is to advance the profession of music teaching through education, certification, networking and advocacy. The association is over 90% women.
1931: The Andrew sisters perform in a children's revue at the Orpheum Theater, which leads to their first national tour. This marks the beginning of a career that includes the sale of more than 90 million records, and the first platinum record ever earned by an all female group. They become a hit on the silver screen (performing alongside Abbott and Costello, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope) and on USO tours where they sing their biggest hits "Bei Mire Bist du Schon" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Rum and Coca-Cola".
1940's: Las Hermanas Rangel (The Rangle sisters) start out performing Mexican ballads on St Paul's West Side- Though by the end of the decade, they've switched to Caribbean music (mambos and cha-cha's), which is more popular with the local Latino community. Over the years, the sisters perform together in various incarnations: Los Rumbaleros, Las Sieta Notas, and with their brother in the Kiko Rangel Band.
1948: More than 40 years' worth of Frances Desnmore's Native American recordings (about 2,400 of them in all) are transferred from wax cylinders to discs. The 81-year-old Red Wing ethnomusicologist supervises the process. She began the collection in 1906 after buying an Edison recording machine with a $150 grant from the Smithsonian Institution. A pioneer in music archiving, Densmore recorded the songs of dozens of tribes, and conducted in-depth studies on the music of the Chippewas.
1956: Ardis Wells and the Rhythm Ranch Gals, quite possibly the first all-girl western band in the country, begin playing regularly at the Flame Bar. Nicknamed "the Yodeling Sweetheart", Wells comes from a family of performers and has spent years following circuses. She has also made a name for herself as a trapeze artist and wrestler in St Paul. The singer/guitarist's group includes accordionist Jan North, banjo player Fern Dale and bassist Patti Williams. years later, when the group's lineup changes and men join the enseble, they're renamed the Rhythm Ranch Pals.
1950's: The North Sisters
This story from a woman musician named Bennett who played lead guitar in the 50's when everything was really churning musically. When she was gigging in Quincy IL, there was a black band playing a few doors down. During their break, she went to see the other band, they chatted and she invited them to catch her band during their break. There was a bit of racial tension amongst the patrons of the club she was playing at and when the black band showed up, it ended up where she stood in front of the black musicians to protect them and basically told the angry customers that they would have to get through her first. . Another story from Bennett was when she was playing at a diner with Johnny Long and Buddy Rein. The lead man made a bet with the diner manager that his guitar player (Bennett) would beat the cook arm wrestling for the meal. Bennett was about 5'4", 125 lbs, and she did beat him and they got their meals fro free. She grew up on a farm and had wrists like a stovepipes. Bennett also remembers talking with Patsy Cline and recalls her saying that she was excited because she'd be on a maternity leave soon to give birth and enjoyed family life and could get off the road for awhile.
1956: Ardis Wells and The Rhythm Ranch Gals, quite possibly the first all-girl western band in the country, begin playing regularly at the Flame Bar. Nicknamed "The Yodeling Sweetheart", Wells comes from a family of performers and has spent years following circuses. She has also made a name for herself as a trapeze artist and wrestler in St Paul. The singer/guitarist's group includes accordionist Jan North, banjo player Fern Dale and bassist patti Williams. Years later, when the group's lineup changes and men join the ensemble, they're renamed the Rhythm Ranch Pals.
1960's: Breaking down racial barriers, Ermine Hall Allen bcomes the first black singer to perform with the St Paul Civic Opera. At a mere 4'9", the contralto is quickly dubbed "the vest-pocket Marian Anderson". Allen is also known for her a cappella renditions of African American spirituals.
1970's: Women's Auxiliary of the Minneapolis Musicians Association Vice President Dolores Del-Rae launches "Musical Instruments for Kids Week", an annual secondhand instrument collection for underprivileged youngsters. The jazz musician started out in the 50's playing accordion and piano at the Sheraton-Ritz Hotel's Golliwog Lounge.
1972: Minnesota Choral was founded in 1972, the Minnesota Chorale is Principal chorus of the Minnesota Orchestra and ranks among the foremost professional choruses in the United States. led by kathy Saltzman Romey since 1995, the Chorale is best known for its work with the Twin Cities' two major orchestras, but is equally dedicated to fostering and deepening community through its award-winning "Bridges" outreach initiatives, educational activities, and independent presentations of choral works. A seasoned artistic partner, the Chorale continues to explore new artistic directions and collaborative opportunites, while earning the highest critical acclaim for its work on the concert stage.
1980"s: this testimonial taken from FaceBook Dec. 27, 2019 from
Marian Moore to Binders of Minnesota Music
NightTimes Variety and Women Who Cook
Hi dear women,
I have been in this group but not shared. Haven’t read much but am touched when I do.
I have been thinking that sharing some of my own history might enrich your understanding of the Twin cities music in the 80s — since the women’s history is rarely covered.
In the spirit of understanding the importance of telling our own stories, I share...
From 1980-1983, Kathi Riley and I produced a weekly live half hour music show on TPT- then called KTCA. The show —NightTimes Variety —featured hundreds of artists over its 83 shows, many of them women. National and local artists both. It was hosted by Michelle Barber and then Jolene Benoit and won national awards for its excellence.
It is also the show that gave birth to Women Who Cook— which we conceived as a way to feature women from different musical genres together in surprising combinations. and With Prudence Johnson’s encouragement, we made sure all the instrumentalists were women too. After the debut TV show in April of 1982, we put on a sold out show at the Guthrie that October and got together occasional in subsequent years. In 1988, we did the Soviet Peace Tour- two weeks with 13 women playing to thousands in Moscow and Sochi . A documentary aired on KARE and while we got coverage in the Star Tribune (jon bream joined us in the tour) it was not focused on the music or the extraordinary nature of the undertaking/accomplishment but on details such as that one of the musicians gave condoms away. I remember feeling so trivialized!
For those not familiar— Women Who Cook included Prudence Johnson, Mary Jane Alm, Ginger Commodore, Jearlyn Steele, Kathy Mueller, Jeanne Arland Peterson, Shannon McDonald, Jane Henderson, Becky Reumer Thompson, Jane Aleckson, Mary DuShane, Barb Montoro, Share Howe, Kathy Jensen, Laurie Glaser, Kathy Turnock, Gwen Matthews, Jerene Jackson, Sara MacDonald among others over the years. We sold out the ordway , the State and again the Guthrie, played a benefit at Glam Slam.
When I read the histories of the music scene in the 80s, Women Who Cook and NightTimes Variety are hardly mentioned.
But we completely rocked. Just so you know!!!!!
1983: Tetes Noires play their first show at the Pride Festival in Loring Park. The unconventional sextet (featureing bassist/vocalist Cynthia Bartell, pianist/keyboardist Angela Frucci, guitarist/vocalist Renee Kayon, guitarist Polly Alexander, violinist/vocalist Jennifer Hold and vocalist/keyboardist Camille Gage) is the first all-female rock band in town. Their spiritual and protest folk-inspired sound encompasses violin, handheld percussion, children's toys, four-part vocal harmonies and an unofficial seventh member- a 1950's drum machine. "I remember playing that show in the ugliest outfit you can imagine" says Gage. "I look at is now and wonder what I was thinking. We were all nervous. What we were doing was very unusual. The music was unusual. What was frustrating is that you reach a point where you want people to listen to the music and get past the novelty aspect and pay attention, which I think people di relatively quickly".
1985: Former First Avenue production manager Maggie MacPherson starts booking the Uptown Bar. Her 11 year run is considered somthing of a golden era for the club, which hosts the first local gigs by Nirvana, Oasis, and the Flaming Lips. "It was the formidable years of alternative usic" says MacPherson. "the Flaming Lips would come in and do bubble machines and laser machines and light mchines and every machine known to man. The room would be completely sold out, and there'd be people packed on the sidewalks staring into the windows".
1986: The Jets, an eight-member sibling act, hit #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Crush on You". Elizabeth Wolfgramm was the second youngest in the group.
1983: Paulette Carlson (born October 11, 1952 in Northfield, Minnesota) is a country singer who rose to fame as the lead vocalist for the country band Highway 101. Paulette began singing in bars in her hometown and later moved to Nashville where she found work as a songwriter for the Oak Ridge boys' Silverline Publishing Company. Her songs have been recorded by Gail Davies and Tammy Wynette, and she also sang backup vocals for Davies. In 1983, she signed a solo recording contract with RCA Records and recorded her self titled debut album. Three singles were also released in 1983 and 1984, "You Gotta Get To My Heart (Before You Lay A Hand On Me)", "Can You Fool" and "I'd Say Yes". In 1988, Highway 101 won their first ACM and CMA awards for Vocal Group of the Year. they also released their second album "Highway 101-2" and charted their third #1 single, "Just Say Yes". Follow up singles "All the Reasons Why", "Setting Me Up" (a Dire Straits song) and "Honky Tonk Heart" and charted in 1988 and 1989 in the top 10. Paulette also contributed a track to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" Vol. 2.
1989: Shampel C (a.k.a. Sheryl Jackson) becomes the first female rapper in town to cut a track. Wide Angle Records puts out a 12" single of "G-G-Get on Down" and "Posse in Effect". Jackson now lives in California where she raps under the name "Pain".
1991: The 30 piece choir Sounds of Blackness, featuring lead vocalist Ann Nesby, wins a Best Gospel Album Grammy for The Evolution of Gospel. They also have a number one hit on the dance charts with "The Pressure Pt. 1", and another one three years later with "I Believe".
1992: Having spent years working as a barmaid in local nightclubs and VFW's, Arnellia Allen open her own bar and names it after herself. Arnellia's remains the only nightclub in the state owned by a black woman.
1992: Zuzu Petals release their first album. Taking their name from the film "It's a Wonderful Life", perhaps the purest expression of Americana ever produced, Zuzu's Petals take all of that absurb hope and grind it into their very own version of the ideal. With a vocal style reminiscent of the Slits or the Breeders, guitars the crunch one minute and serenade the next, and unruly rhythms that threaten to go off on their own at any time, the Zuau's find joy in creating indefinable pop that begs to be listend to, danced to, thought about and cried over.
Big Metal Birds. At a show in California, bassist Kristen Pfaff meets Courtney Love and Eric Erlanson, who ask her to join Hole. Pfaff moves to seattle and records "Live Through This" with the new band, but soon becomes an early entry on the list of people who don't get along with Love and decides to quit. She plans on moving back to Minnesota, but dies of a heroin overdose the night before she is supposed to return.
2003: Women in Music Minnesota Music Networking: a nonprofit helping women advance their music careers is started by Rebekka Fisher. www.wimmn.com
2003: Sabor Tropical singer Maya Lopez-Santamaria, who has been booking Salsa nights at the Quest and First Avenue, decides that the Twin cities need a club by Latinos and for Latinos. She and her husband nicholas open El Nuevo Rodeo. A historian of Latin usic in Minnesota, Lopez-Santamaria had written and directed Los Rumbaleros, a musical based on the lives of the Rangel Sisters that was performed at the Great American History theater in 2001.
2005: Intermedia Arts hosts the B-Girl Be Summit, the first local conference for ladies in hip hop. The event brings together DJs, MCs, breakdancers, graffiti artists and academics from all over the country, while artists like Desdamona, Sarah White, Dessa and Aria Isa represent the Twin cities' burgeoning scene.
2005: Jordis Unga appears on Rock Star: INXS, The 22 year old St Paul bartender makes it to the top five finalists before being sent home. Following the show, Jorids jams with Camp Freddy, an L.A. group featuring Dave Navarro and is invited to perform at the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center. She has an album coming out on Epic Records.