Women of Texas Music

Mary Jane Johnson fencepost

Mary Jane Johnson (photo courtesy of Texas Monthly™)

March is Women’s History Month, and in recognition of that the Crossroads Music Archive at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library has curated an exhibit entitled The Women of Texas Music.

Mary Jane Johnson La Fanciulla

The most prominent musician among those featured is Mary Jane Johnson. Counted among the great dramatic sopranos and considered one of opera’s premiere interpreters, Johnson has toured North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Among her many heralded interpretations, that of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West stands out. It has been heard on stages around the world including the Teatro Communale in Bologna, the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, on tour in Japan with La Scala, and with the Santa Fe Opera Festival. Her career went to the next level when she appeared with Luciano Pavarotti in a televised performance as Musetta in Puccini’s La Boheme with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

SusanGrisantiTexasMusiciansHallOfFame

Susan Grisanti, known as the “First Lady of Classical Guitar in the Southwest,” was a recognizable figure in Lubbock, Texas music for over four decades. A gifted guitar instructor, she taught over 5,000 students during her career and served as a resident house musician at local Lubbock institutions. The Crossroads Music Archive contains the materials donated after her death in 2013. In fact, the “Susan Grisanti Memorial Fund” was established to help preserve her music legacy at the Crossroads Music Archive.

Texana Dames CD front

Beginning in the 1950s, the Hancock Family helped usher in the era of modern Lubbock Music. The family has participated in notable bands from The Roadside Playboys to the Texana Dames. The Dames was an all-female trio, with mother Charlene Hancock and siblings Traci and Conni Hancock. Their career spanned some 25 years. The Dames music varied from cumbia to country, and was a favorite for dancers.

ADJ-Heartbeats-web

The Heart Beats were an all-female garage rock band based in Lubbock and founded around 1966. They were led by drummer and lead vocalist Linda Sanders, along with younger sister Debbie Sanders (guitar), Debbie McMellan (bass guitar), and Jeannie Foster (guitar and keyboards.) They attracted nationwide attention in the summer of 1968 when they won the battle of the bands on the popular ABC-TV variety show Happening 68, hosted by Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere of Paul Revere & the Raiders.

The materials documenting the lives and careers of musicians both female and male can be found at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library. In fact, our always-helpful Reference Staff would be happy to arrange for you to view them yourselves.

– by Curtis Peoples & Robert Weaver

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