Kay Adams, Lorrie Collins, Rosie Flores, Rose Lee Maphis, and Jean Shepard share the stage for panel discussion "California Angels: Women of West Coast Country," focused on exploring the lives and music of women who made special contributions to the story of West Coast country music. Held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2012, the panel is moderated by California-based music journalist Scott B. Bomar.
Though none of the participants are California-born, all share musical roots in the state. Rose Lee Maphis was part of a popular California-based duo with her husband, Joe Maphis. Lorrie Collins earned youthful success there with rocking family duo the Collins Kids, alongside her brother Larry. Kay Adams, who moved with her family to Bakersfield in 1964, became the first female to record a hit trucking song, “Little Pink Mack,” and toured in the road shows of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. San Antonio-born Rosie Flores moved to Southern California when she was twelve, and became the first Latina artist to land a hit on the Billboard country singles chart.
Oklahoma native Jean Shepard's family moved to California in the 1940s, and in the fifties, her country music career sprinted forward with “A Dear John Letter,” a duet with Ferlin Husky. She went on to land forty-five hits on the Billboard charts, and election to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Getting established in those days, she remembers, took dismantling assumptions.
Country star Hank Thompson introduced Shepard to Capitol Records executive and producer Ken Nelson In 1952, and he balked at first, according to Shepard, saying, “There ain’t no place in country music for women.”
Still, he gave the singer a shot, and “A Dear John Letter” hit #1 on the country charts and went on to sell more than three million units. Shepard remembers, “I went to Ken and said, ‘You still think there’s no place [for women]?’”
The panelists discuss a broad range of other topics personal and musical, from what drove Shepard's family west (“starvation,” she replies bluntly), to Kay Adams' experiences performing with Buck Owens, the Collins Kids' major-label signing and rise, Rosie Flores's first musical moves with a all-girl teen band, and Rose Lee Maphis's early days as a solo artist known as Rose of the Mountains.
After the discussion, Flores performs a sixty-minute set with a four-piece backing band.
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