The Carter Family and Carolina Chocolate Drops


In class we have been discussing the gender, race and class struggles within Bluegrass music. It is clear that Bluegrass was, and to a point, still is, primarily a white men music. Most all of the Bluegrass performers in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, were white males. The Carter Family was one of the first to officially step out of the norm.

The Carter family involved mainly females. It was unheard of that females could be onstage with a male, much less sing songs and play instruments. The Carter Family made a name for themselves by breaking the norm. They were a big hit everywhere they went. They were the “First Family of Country Music” after all. I would and will argue that you can classify The Carter Family as Bluegrass as well as country music. They have the sound, the instruments, and to me, they have the heart and soul of what I believe is Bluegrass.

By recording at the Bristol Sessions, they set the stage for other women to record, whether that was their goal or not. It was one of the first times that women’s voices were heard on the radio. I never fully considered what they did as a stand against the gender norms, but looking at it from a different perspective, I could see how they did break the gender norm back then.

Then you have the Carolina Chocolate Drops:

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are considered Bluegrass to me as well. They majorly break the Bluegrass norms by having a female singer/instrumentalist, and they do not fit the standard white men norm. There music is just as Bluegrass as any other band, and I kind of enjoy listening to their music. By breaking the norms, they are able to open the doors for others.

I believe both the Carter Family and Carolina Chocolate Drops pushed to break the norms that have always been associated with Bluegrass. Though, it may not have been their over all intentions when they began performing, I believe both groups have made a statement and have helped to open doors for so many others, as well as, opening the minds of people who enjoy the music.

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