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(NO?) Strings Attached:
Female guitarists in contemporary music

(Released July 2009)

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  by Les Reynolds  

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ENTER, the GIRLS with GUITARS

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Despite the many studies and observations concerning sex discrimination in the music industry, a number of women have chosen to defy social norms, go against tradition and make a career in a difficult business. Some of them, profiled here, are simultaneously paving the way for others.

No Novelty

Laurie Morvan, mentioned at the beginning of this Discovery Guide, has only recently been afforded the recognition sought by so many. Morvan discovered, as did those young women in the collegiate jazz program study, the road was filled with challenges. Some club owners refused to take her seriously, even alluding to the fact that they seldom hire women, let alone female-fronted bands, as Holland wrote in a feature on Morvan in "Modern Guitars Magazine" (14). Club owners and booking agents often view women as a novelty.

Laurie Morvan on YouTube
Laurie Morvan at the Beale on Broadway St. Louis

An intelligent woman armed with an engineering degree and a brief stint in the aerospace industry, Morvan honed her skills and recorded three CDs while becoming known in the Southern California area for her skill with a guitar and as an entertaining performer. The previously-mentioned tune "Where are the Girls with Guitars?" was an allusion to a song originally written by Mary Chapin Carpenter and sung by Wynonna Judd in the 1990s. In Morvan's song, she writes of buying the Judd CD and being very excited upon hearing the song "Girls with Guitars". The original tune was about a young girl who breaks with tradition and runs away to a big city to "make it big" as a guitarist. Morvan writes that she was extremely disappointed, when reading the credits, to learn that the guitarists who actually play on that song are all male. Remembering her experience, this prompted Morvan years later to write her own question in the form of a song.

Morvan's tune, Holland writes, is not so much about non-existence as it is about a call to have a voice and take a rightful place in the music industry. The article goes on to say that while many talented female guitarists are on the scene today, female players in general, especially those in male dominated genres like blues and rock, are still a minority.

Holland asked Morvan if, in her opinion, gender boundaries hinder the effort to become a successful blues guitarist. Morvan replied that, once on stage, it is comfortable for women and music fans appreciate the skill. The difficulties lie in getting past the talent buyers who continue to categorize female guitarists as a novelty.

Morvan, it should be noted, was named Female Artist of the Year for 2006 by the Blues Marketing Network, a group based in Southern California.

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