A Wrong That Must Be Righted


imageA Wrong That Must Be Righted

This year’s inductees, announced Wednesday, are the five original members of the Seldom Scene – John Duffey, Ben Eldridge, Tom Gray, John Starling and Mike Auldridge – and bluegrass and folk music historian Neil Rosenberg. I’m not arguing that they aren’t worthy. In fact, the Scene’s selection was long overdue.

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Comments

  • As long as "The Good Ol' Boy", "Inner Loop" few only chooses two inductees a year...The Hall of Fame will never catch up. The NASCAR Hall of Fame figured that one out just after a few years of existence. We...The IBMA are still not wise enough to do it. There are enough more than qualified candidates to do eight a year. I would suggest four who are still with us who can enjoy the fruits of hard work now and four who have passed on. I agree Hazel should be there, along with another 20 I could name with out thinking much. It's sad really.
  • Gloria Belle is, indeed, another woman who deserves Hall of Fame consideration.
  • Plus one for Hazel! And a nice article David. She deserves it as much as anyone I can think of.
  • I'd love to see Hazel Dickens get into the IBMA Hall of Fame.

    Worth checking out Peter Wernick's post to BGRASS-L on the matter... If the 1st president of the IBMA thinks something's amiss, that's good enough for me.

    In many ways Hazel's music reminds me of Bob Dylan - music with the 'bark' still on (as Tom Paxton put it). It's not just the songwriting but the soulful delivery that packs a punch.

    A shame too that this years awards neglected to nominate the "Pretty Good For A Girl - Women In Bluegrass" book by Murphy Hicks Henry. That was a good book on an innovative subject & should have been recognized.... IBMA's 2014 adverts with their banjo pickin' gal seem to be at odds with their Committee selections.
  • The notion that there is a "good ole boy" "Inner loop" who chooses Hall of Fame inductees is simply not true. A panel of electors exists to vote on these inductions, and that panel includes some of the most esteemed members of the bluegrass community. There are no lobbying efforts to get folks info the Hall of Fame.
  • Hazel was indeed a fine songwriter and a vocalist equal to Ralph Stanley in her mountain style of singing. But what bluegrass band was she a part of? Shouldn't that be a part of the consideration? And, by the way, if your intention was to insult the 10 members of the voting board for being chauvinist males I think that is just dumb in this day and age.

    Dennis Satterlee
  • I hope Wilma Lee isn't overlooked. I would certainly put her into the "Legends of Bluegrass" category.

    Bob Geen
  • Thanks for comment, Dennis. I'm not calling the 10 members of the selection committee chauvinists or any other names. Nor am I disparaging the veteran bluegrassers who help narrow the honorees to a manageable number. But take a look at the list of hall of fame members. I think the paucity of women on the list speaks for itself. Your mileage may vary.
  • To clarify, there's a 10 member committee of industry leaders charged with making 10-15 nominations in each category in a given year for the Hall of Fame, and a Panel of Electors, currently comprised of over 200 members who, according to the bylaws, must "have participated actively in bluegrass for at least ten years, and must merit respect and recognition for their accomplishments and/or knowledge in one or more aspects of the field"; in a process that takes 2-3 rounds, the Panel selects the inductees from among the nominees provided by the nominating committee.  
  • I would not leave Ola Belle Reed, Drucilla Adams, Betty Fisher, Samantha Bumgarner, Mary Doub, Kitsy Kuykendall, Alice Gerrard, or Hazel & Alice together out of this conversation at all. Plus, so many living women with HOF cred are active today, I can't even start.

    I totally agree with Mike that no "good ole boy" conspiracy exists. I have never once been lobbied re HOF by anybody (nor discussed whom to vote for with anyone) compared to the 242,176 emails about the Awards.

    Nonetheless, David presents something significant. I just went on Jstor - the online source for academic journals and entered a search for "gender bias in committee work." It produced 196,068 articles! By that I mean that unless women have enough representation to create critical mass, women's issues will not be addressed satisfactorily. Even the most sensitive, open minded man is still a man.

    I know first hand that when this system was invented, a sincere effort occurred to get as many qualified women on board as Electors as humanly possible. As David also notes, the history of bluegrass demographics means that a body impaneled some 20 years ago in our field with the qualifications Jon notes would be overwhelmingly male. The imbalance was far too great for any kind of Title IX approach to work.

    Time will change this, but Dennis Jones may have a point that we constrict the chain in a way that hurts women's chances. It is worth considering adding a women's slot much as we have done with other parts of our community.

    Since IBMA intentionally and wisely refuses to define bluegrass, each Nominator and Elector decides for herself whether someone has contributed sufficiently to the bluegrass field or its development.
  • If you induct a HOF member "because" they are female, you are revising history. There were no major Bluegrass pioneers who were women, for whatever cultural reasons, and an attempt to alter that now is misguided. I don't think the New York Times gets to define the term "pioneer" either.

    There is an important female presence in the music now, and no special slot is needed for artists like Alison Krauss, Claire Lynch, or Lynn Morris. Time will deal with the imbalance. Leave the politically correct quota system for NASCAR, the NCAA and others to use.
  • Hughmoore, I agree that there shouldn't be a special slot for women. I argue that Hazel is qualified under the existing system. But I have a broader definition of pioneer than you do. Was Hazel there with Bill Monroe at the creation of bluegrass? Of course not. But for women in bluegrass, including the fine examples you mentioned, she was a pioneer. And if you go back in the archives, you'll see that I called her a pioneer before she died.

    Thanks all for contributing to this important discussion
  • Louise Scruggs was a pioneer and is in the HOF. But we are now well past the pioneer era in the inductees. This is the Bluegrass HOF not the Bluegrass Pioneers HOF, Hugh. We are now up to inducting The Seldom Scene, who formed 26 years into the bluegrass era, Doyle, Tony, Dillards, Hartford. All worthy of the HOF ten times over, but not pioneers of bluegrass.

    Anyway, Sally Ann Forrester was a Blue Grass Boy in 1942. Drusilla Adams running a bluegrass record label by 1951. I think Caroline may have still been handling a lot of Bill's business affairs at the time. That is pioneering. But there are hundreds of men who were pioneers, but don't deserve the HOF. I am sure Melvin Goins can tell you who was playing bass with him and Ray when they were teenagers running up and down the holler playing that "plinkity-plunk music like Bill Monroe," but the bass player better have done a lot more to get into HOF. Pioneer ain't enough in and of itself regardless of gender for HOF.

    Hugh is quite right that without any adjustment in the system over time the imbalance will addressed. That, however, will likely take longer than I have in this veil of tears. One way to expedite that is simply to induct more people without regard to gender or any other class. Then the process Hugh described will happen faster.

    Another is to create a female seat. I ask David, Hugh, or anyone else to explain how that is different in any respect from the Business/Academic seat. That was created because the committee correctly understood that nowadays Louise Scruggs or Neil Rosenberg would have a hard time beating Seldom Scene, Doyle Lawson, or Tony Rice. I do not see a difference.

    And to get all the way back to the beginning and Dennis' comment about volume. Hazel is not in the HOF due to the numbers of inductees than any other factor. Were the vote framed "Should Hazel Dickens go into the HOF? Yes or no?" she would get elected every time.

    But the question is framed just like in the final ballot for Awards. So it is always pick one from a bunch of giants that you admire and like. I have never seen a single unworthy candidate
  • Oh my! Such a worthy topic! Thank you David for suggesting, forcefully, that Hazel should be in the Hall of Fame. I agree. I also agree that more women should be in the Hall of Fame. (No surprise there!) I disagree with Hugh's saying that there were no major Bluegrass Pioneers who were women. I guess that depends on what your definition of "pioneer" means. If it means "paving the way" I certainly think Hazel and Alice "pioneered" the hard-edged female bluegrass duet and the idea of writing "True Songs" from the woman's point of view. Gloria Belle pioneered the idea of the female side musician. Many other women pioneered other aspects of bluegrass. I could write a book about that....Oh! I did! (grin) I applaud Art's suggestion to create a category for women, a "female seat," as a viable way of recognizing the many women who are worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. I also understand that there will be fierce opposition to this from both women and men. And finally one tiny correction to David's original post: The Lewis Family was NOT mostly men for almost all of its existence. For a short period early on, they were the Lewis Brothers. But Miggie joined in 1951, Polly soon after, and Janis in 1953. And thus, the Lewis Family was born, a band with three strong and talented women. I am so glad they are in the Hall of Fame. I long for the day we see Alison Krauss, Donna and Roni Stoneman, Wilma Lee Cooper, Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Kristin Scott Benson, and other women on the ballot. Oh, what joy to have to pick from these worthy, female giants!
  • As others have, I have written elsewhere that I strongly believe Hazel should be in the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame; it is an honour that is- at minimum- overdue by six years. It isn't a matter that others are getting in who don't deserve it, although I question a couple selections, it is that Hazel has consistently been overlooked. I don't see the situation changing as more 'modern' and popular- high profile bluegrass performers become eligible for the Hall. Unfortunately, I see Hazel remaining on the outside of the Hall as comparative youngsters are given seats at the table. Hazel, as a songwriter, as a singer, as a bandleader, and as a dang important pioneering woman of bluegrass, is destined to be overlooked unless a concerted effort is made on the part of that list of '200' and the other list of '10' to ensure her rightful place. If it doesn't happen in the next two years, I don't believe it will ever happen. If it doesn't happen, we can only accept that those who are making these decisions do not recognize her of meriting inclusion. Donald
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