Monday, July 22, 2013

Women Must Rock

The history of women in the world of rock & roll dates back to the juke-joint "mamas" of the 1920's. Those women simply used music to express themselves & they poured out their musical souls which unknowingly laid the foundation for future generations of female musicians to push and seal the envelope.  

Maggie, Annie, Abby & Lanea
(2010) "The Uke-ladies"

Wanda Jackson is one talented firecracker who was dubbed the Queen of Rockabilly and/or the Queen of Rock.  Jackson was a teenager in the '50's & with her daddy's support, learned the guitar and created her own cutting edge style, labeled "rockabilly" - a mixture of country and rock.  Wanda was mentored & encouraged by Elvis Presley to "jump into the mix" and make some buzz in the biz. She broke ground with her infectious sound & fringy dresses, making a classic statement that still looks hot & fresh today.
Check out Wanda's video on her website page:

Wanda has recorded a couple of CD's in recent years and she says that she is finally reaping the rewards of her breakthrough in the 1950's. The 70-something Wanda says that "to see women still knocking down these barriers, not only in music but in business and all the arts, I'm quite proud of them. I don't care for everything that's happening in every respect but I'm very proud of the strong women-the way they've come to the forefront." Wanda is performing in Louisville, KY this Sat. nite - July 27th at Headliner's Music Hall!

I happen to think that there are other women "in rock," namely on-air radio personalities such as my late friend & co-author, Maggie McHugh, along with Evansville local radio personality, Julie Michaels. Not to mention the long list of female authors who research & write about the importance of rock & roll.....You will enjoy Jude Kessler's viewpoint this week of another woman in rock on for more...(she also shares an excerpt from her latest book, soon to be published Vol. 3- She Loves You).

Please attend my "Women In Rock" program this Thursday, which will be a brief view of where women started in rock & where they stand now. The program will also include a musical performance by radio personality Julie Michaels and local musician, Mariah Dawn Shepherd.

Women In Rock - Studio 4905's Local Author Event
Thursday, July 25th ~ 6:00 - 8:00 pm cst
4905 Timberlane Dr., Henderson, KY 42420

My Music Nugget of the Week:

I love this spine tingling performance by Heart - two very important female rockers. Their tribute to Led Zeppelin is exquisite. My 6 yr old niece, Hillary, says that Jimmy Page (on the far right of the Led Zep fellas) - looks like George Washington ;)

Ask the Intern with Claire Edwards

In today's rock world, what new female artist shines?    -   Dreamboat Annie, Chandler, IN
            The first name that comes to mind is Amanda Palmer who first become a prominent figure in the music scene when she and Brian Viglione, who together form the duet The Dresden Dolls, released their debut album. Although The Dresden Dolls helped her make a name for herself, Palmer, who is a composer, pianist, lyricist, and singer; has since participated in many musical endeavors including Evelyn Evelyn, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, and her own solo career. Palmer’s stunningly unique lyrics, deep vocals, and activist themes set her far apart from others in the alternative rock community. Much of Palmer’s music is classified a punk cabaret which is a style of music that combines gothic and punk music styles with aspects from burlesque and vaudeville shows. Palmer’s work promotes individuality, equality, and creativity in a way that affects and inspires listeners.

Peace, Love & Rock & Roll,
Lanea Stagg
Recipe Records Cookbooks

John's Blurb with Jude Southerland Kessler
  - Author of The John Lennon Series
Linda Ronstadt, Joan Jett, Blondie, Lady Gaga, Heart, Janis Joplin, Cynthia Lennon.

Which one doesn’t belong in that list? If you selected Cynthia Lennon, I’d have to say, “not so fast, wack!” (which is “not so fast, bucko!” in Liverpool terms.)

Because I DO think Cynthia Lennon was truly a “woman in rock.” The only difference between Cyn and the others on my list is, Cyn didn’t choose to be in rock’n’roll full time. However, when she dated and later married John Lennon,  her life and her dreams of being an art teacher became secondary to his dreams and his life as the most famous composer-rocker-performer of the 1960’s (and maybe of the Whenever).

Cynthia’s friends became rockers. Her outings and vacations were spent with rockers. Her days and nights were spent caring for Julian as a “single mom” so that John could be off and about the business of being a rocker. And when John was at home (which was seldom) Cyn would listen to his aspirations and frustrations with rock’n’roll. It became her life as well.

For the first year that John and Cyn were married, they lived apart. For a while, she lived with his Aunt Mimi in Menlove Avenue, Woolton. Then for a time, she lived in her mother’s house in Hoylake. But in January of 1964, John and Cyn moved in together – into a 6th floor mansionette in Emperor’s Gate, London.  And that’s when Cyn really began her life as a “Woman in Rock.”

Below is an excerpt, (a sneak peek) from Vol. 3 in The John Lennon Series, She Loves You, which will be out in just a few months. I’m only sharing it with readers of Lanea’s blog, but I hope that it gives you a glimpse of what Cynthia Lennon endured for the man she loved.

Cynthia never pined for nor aspired to the life she acquired when she married into Rock’n’Roll. But it was a package deal. When Cynthia accepted her “wedding band,” it was both a ring and The Beatles.

Choosing for yourself
to live in danger
to live in the public eye
to live under scrutiny
to live in the midst of controversy is one thing.

But taking on this role because you love someone so much that you’ll accept those terms right along with them is….amazing.

This week, instead of quoting John Lennon, allow me to quote from St. Paul in Galatians who said, “My life is not my own.” I’m sure many spouses (both men and women) have said that. I’m sure many women in rock (and men in rock) have muttered that. And I’m fairly certain Cynthia Lennon whispered those words many times between 1959-1969. But to her credit, she faithfully stayed the course.

And that, dear friends, is love.

Here is how Cynthia handled her rocker’s life in January of 1964 from She Loves You. If you like what you read, you can pre-order the book here:

You’ll get a free, signed “Doors of Liverpool” art poster shipped to you immediately when you order.

And now, a glimpse of Cyn’s heart:

At the Lennon’s New Flat

Emperor’s Gate, London

January 1964

 She was “Wendy” playing house, and John was “Peter Pan” – a reluctant father off each morning to fight pirates and lead Indians but home every night to the hidden getaway. To Cynthia, it was magical.[i]

While John completed the last nights of “The Beatles’ Christmas Show” and recorded yet another Saturday Club in Playhouse Theatre,[ii] Cynthia bundled Julian against the January winds and took him out in the pram. By 9:30 a.m., the two were window-shopping.[iii] Cynthia strolled and hummed, while Julian followed each passerby with bright, watchful eyes.

Brian had sent word that a decorator was “quite in order” so Cyn made stops at Barker’s of Kensington and Derry and Tom’s, making “pressing appointments” to discuss furniture, bed linens, and accent pieces.[iv] On her own, Cynthia purchased a few colourful cushions and a bit of art, and by the time that mother and son returned to the daunting Emperor’s Gate staircase, the bulky packages were more than Cyn could manage.

Lifting her son from the pram, Cyn wedged the packages into the place where the baby had been; she tossed a blanket over the lot and manouevered the pram to a quiet spot beneath the stairs, praying the expensive carriage wouldn’t be spotted and stolen. Then moving as quickly as she dared with an infant “aboard,” Cyn clattered up the six steep flights up to the flat.[v]

“Mum…Mum, I’m back! Take Julian…quickly! Quickly pleeease!” Then pounding down six flights again, Cyn thankfully found the bulky pram and its cache still waiting for her.

This time, the climb was a trudge. One deliberate level at a time. Then a rest. The sixth flight was excruciating. Cynthia was done in.

“What’ll I do when you’re back home in Liverpool?” she panted to her mother over a glass of water. “I’ll have to park Julian up here somewhere safe and then hurry back down![vi] I don’t even want to think of it! This is an awful mess!”

“Well, it’s your home, isn’t it?” Lillian reminded her, ruefully. “I mean, you chose it…despite that that rumbling underground…’n the air terminal nearby!”[vii]

“Yes, the noises have unnerved me as well, Mum. Sorry,” Cyn apologized, daubing her face with a damp tea towel. “But you’re right, you know…it’s our home. And now that we’re here together, John’ll be with us almost every night. I suppose that when you figure that into the equation, it rather hushes the racket. It makes it all worth it, doesn’t it?”

“Well,” Lillian shrugged, “all that matters, I suppose, is that you think so.”


Thursday, 9 January 1963

            But even though John had registered everything under the pseudonym, “John Hadley,” the fans found them. They awoke one morning to dazzling winter sunshine, a light dusting of snow, and a flock of bee-hived girls parked down the stairs, one after another.[viii] John had stepped out to meet Mal and the van for a ride to the afternoon rehearsal, but he was immediately back again, his face stern and ashen; his eyes, cold.

            “They found us!” He tore off his coat and reached for the telephone.

            “Oh no,” Cynthia swallowed.

            “There scores of ’em out there! Whoreds.” He made his meaning plain.

            And there were.  Girls in thick eyeliner and tight sweaters. Girls with competing perfumes. Girls in laddered tights.[ix] Girls in scanty clothing, despite the frigid temps.

We’re trapped like caged animals![x] Cynthia thought, pulling strands of hair through trembling fingers. Surrounded by girls of every shape, size, colour, creed, and nationality![xi]Barricaded!

But it was only the beginning. As John conferred with Neil about his desperate need for Mal’s assistance (“I can hardly trek down the stairs, can I?” he shouted), Cynthia fretted about Julian and the months ahead.

Would they ever go out again? Was it safe to even consider it? How would she navigate the stairs? Insure her son’s safety? Insure her own?

Locked in a tower six flights above the earth, the once-naïve girl from Hoylake got her first real taste of Beatlemania. And it was a bitter pill.


[i] In Twist of Lennon, Cyn comments, “Moving into our own place again was wonderful!” (p. 102) and in John she says, “John and I were really excited to have our own home!”(p. 128)
[ii] Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 142.
[iii] Lennon, Cynthia, John, 128.
[iv] Lennon, Cynthia, John, 128.
[v] Lennon, Cynthia, John, 128.
[vi] Lennon, Cynthia, John, 128.
[vii] Lennon, Cynthia, A Twist of Lennon, 103. Cynthia says that the “flat overlooked the underground railway and the new Air Terminal…”
[viii] Lennon, Cynthia, John, 129.
[ix] Lennon, Cynthia, A Twist of Lennon, 104. Cyn says that often Julia was surrounded by these girls and all she saw was “a mass of knickers, bottoms, and laddered tights, all colours of the rainbow.”
[x] Lennon, Cynthia, A Twist of Lennon, 103. This is a direct quote from Cynthia.
[xi] Lennon, Cynthia, A Twist of Lennon, 103. This is a direct quote from Cynthia.


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