Appalachian Women in Country Music

Written by Isaac Punch, Senior Honors student at Western Carolina University.

The following is an abstract of a longer research paper written for Robert Ferguson’s History class. If you would like more information please email him at

My research focused on Appalachian women musicians who stand out as influences for subsequent generations. Lily May Ledford of eastern Kentucky and her all-female string band, the Coon Creek Girls, had an enormous musical impact due in part to the fact that all-female string bands was uncommon for the 1930s. Loretta Lynn’s background in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky also influenced the future of country music beyond measure. Likewise, Dolly Parton’s musical influences while growing up in eastern Tennessee would shape country music and inspire a generation of singers and musicians. I concluded the essay by discussing how this collection of female musicians inspired and paved the way for present-day musicians such as Rhiannon Giddens of North Carolina, who was known initially as a founding member of the critically acclaimed, Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Born and raised in the Piedmont near Greensboro, North Carolina, Giddens approach to traditional and modern music has been recognized the world over. All of these women deserve individual attention, but I wanted to connect them through women in Appalachian music and how their backgrounds seeped into their music and made an impact in country music more broadly.

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