Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country

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Overview

In 1942, drummer Viola Smith sent shock waves through the jazz world by claiming in Down Beat magazine that “hep girls” could sit in on any jam session and hold their own. In Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country, Angela Smith takes Viola at her word, offering a comprehensive look at the world of professional drumming and the women who had the courage and chops to break the barriers of this all-too-male field. Combining archival research with personal interviews of more than fifty ...

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Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country

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Overview

In 1942, drummer Viola Smith sent shock waves through the jazz world by claiming in Down Beat magazine that “hep girls” could sit in on any jam session and hold their own. In Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country, Angela Smith takes Viola at her word, offering a comprehensive look at the world of professional drumming and the women who had the courage and chops to break the barriers of this all-too-male field. Combining archival research with personal interviews of more than fifty female drummers representing more than eight decades in music history, Smith paints a vivid picture of their struggles to overcome discrimination—not only as professional musicians but in other parts of their lives. Women Drummers outlines the evolution of female drumming from pre-biblical times when women held important leadership roles to their silencing by the church during the Middle Ages to spearheading the fight for women’s rights in the modern era. The stories and personal accounts of female drummers who bucked tradition and societal norms are told against the backdrop of the times in which they performed and the genres they represented, from rock and jazz to blues and country.

Although women have proven time and time again that they can more than hold their own against their male counterparts, female drummers not only remain a minority, but their contributions have been obscured by the traditional chauvinistic attitudes in the music business and gender stereotypes that surround the drum itself as a “male” instrument. Women Drummers takes a major step forward in undoing this misconception by acknowledging the talent, contribution, and growing power of women drummers in today’s music environment.

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Editorial Reviews

BELLA New York City Magazine
Quick! How many female drummers can you name? While the drummer position in bands everywhere is a largely male dominated thing, women have been making waves with their percussion instruments for years. This book by Angela Smith explores the world of women drummers who've broken barriers and overcome discrimination. Forget the guys, these lady drummers rock.
Wisconsin Gazette
The bookWomen Drummers: A History From Rock and Jazz To Blues and Countryis fascinating reading for music fans and those who are interested in gender issues as well. Smith recounts stories that should be heard as today’s young girl drummers seek to break stereotypes and pursue their personal muses. The book is an essential work on both women’s history and the contemporary state of female percussionists in the music industry.
Tom Tom Magazine
This comprehensive book about women drummers throughout the ages is worthy of living on university shelves worldwide. Angela Smith takes the reader from the advent of drums (BCE), to the first rebel drummers facing religious decrees, through contemporary drumming legends like Sheila E. Cindy Blackman, and Viola Smith. She tips her hat to all of the movers and shakers who have paved the way for us female drummers thus far. This book is thoughtful, thought provoking, historical, intelligent and interesting. If you like Tom Tom you will love this book because it is the very book we would have written ourselves. Buy it for your favorite drummer (if that is you more, power to you!) today.
Rope Burns
For anyone interested in music history, this should be required reading. For everyone else, Women Drummers is just a great book that’s fun to read. The book is available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble or local booksellers in both hard cover and e-book editions.
A.V. Club
Angela Smith’s volume is full of the compelling stories of many women who have tried their hands at the sticks, only to face institutional sexism. . . .Women Drummers has a dynamite premise and packs in tons of well-reported, resonant stories.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810888340
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/16/2014
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 597,277
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Angela Smith is a freelance writer and executive director emeritus of the Writers’ League of Texas. Also a working musician and music journalist, she is the author of Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History (Scarecrow Press, 2012).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
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Introduction
Chapter 1: A Few Beats Back in Time
Chapter 2: 23 Skidoo: Pre-Ragtime to Jazz Age
Chapter 3: Bee’s Knees: The Roaring 20s
Chapter 4: Swing Cats: The 30s
Chapter 5: Hep Girls: The 40s
Chapter 6: Called to Duty: War Years
Chapter 7: Hip and Diggin’ It: Postwar to the 50s
Chapter 8: Rock ‘n’ Roll, Baby! The 50s and 60s
Chapter 9: Trippin’ & Groovin’ The 70s
Chapter 10: Bad to the Bone: The 80s
Chapter 11: Wicked to the Max: More 80s
Chapter 12: Awesome Times Two
Chapter 13: Bangin’ and Slammin’: The 90s
Chapter 14: Mega to the Max: More 90s
Chapter 15: Sweet!: A New Century
Chapter 16: And the Beat Goes On (To Be Continued)
Chapter 17: Honky Tonk Angels
Chapter 18: Lady Drum the Blues
Chapter 19: Jazz Chicks with Chops
Chapter 20: Drummers of a Different Beat
Conclusion: Not by a Long Shot!
Selected Discography, Videos, and Online Resources
Bibliography
About the Author
Permissions

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted August 2, 2014

    Basing this book on interviews conducted with over 50 top women

    Basing this book on interviews conducted with over 50 top women drummers, Angela Smith recounts how, in addition, another 160 women gained both national and international prowess through their mastery of the art of drumming. Their astounding success in what was once a male-dominated profession is truly inspiring, with much being attributed to their determination to prove that women can be just as good, if not, at times, better than men at pursuing those interests to which they are passionately committed. Opening her introduction with an anecdote regarding the ninety-nine-year-old Viola Smith walking into a music store in Orange County, California, and being astonished to be met with frank adulation from the floored store owner, Smith continues to stress the importance of the role played by professional women drummers for thousands of years. The opposition that they have encountered is shown, over the eons, as having made them more determined than ever to prove their mettle as worthwhile musicians who have outstanding talents to share with fellow musicians, and with their avid followers, as well as with the rest of the world. And who better to tell the story of so many musically gifted women than one who is a working musician and music journalist herself, who has already written the acclaimed Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History?




    Angela Smith’s focus in this overview of women drummers is on women who have, over the last six decades, made it to the top in terms of popular and contemporary jazz, country, blues, and rock. By focusing on the individual drummers involved, she has been able to bring to the forefront their most outstanding achievements, as well as the limitations that they faced on their careers emanating from a social climate that has all too often been antagonistic to them reaching their full potential. The multiple black-and-white photos of the drummers, many of whom are portrayed “on the job” also help to personalize this interesting, and occasionally provocative, glimpse into the world of the percussion instrument from a woman who is all too conscious of the legacy of discrimination that has permeated the world of music for far too long.
    The chronological structure of Women Drummers aids in making the work a coherent whole, in addition to the chapters being well signposted and containing numerous helpful headings. The index is quite lengthy (20 pages) and detailed for a book of this nature, and there is also a helpful appendix, consisting of a listing of selected discography, video links, and online resources, as well as an 11-page bibliography. In short, Angela Smith seems to have done her research well, and produced a lively and informative text on a subject that, in the past, has tended not to receive the attention that it should. Although the fluency of the book has lost out somewhat to the amount of information contained therein, it is a worthwhile text that deserves its place on any music-lover’s shelf, but especially on that of keen feminists, who only too ardently wish to promote their cause. 

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