Is it really true, as Country Music Archive asserts, that Ann Jones And Her Western Sweethearts “was probably the first all-girl band in C & W music”? Bill Sachs, in his “Folk Talent and Tunes” column for Billboard, reported in the November 13, 1960 edition —
Ann Jones, King recording veteran, and hubby Hughie, have their five-piece, all-girl band playing military installations in the 50 States on a 52-week-a-year basis. Combo makes the jump in a sleeper bus.
KCLX disc jockey, Mary Wilson, in that same Billboard column would “type in” from Palouse, Washington in their January 1, 1955 edition “that Ann Jones and her all-girl band from Vancouver, B.C., toured thru there recently and guested on her ‘Far West Jamboree.’ In the band, which played the Riverside Park there the same night, are Blanche Emerson, steel guitar, Yvonne Fritchie, vocalist and guitarist, who records for Abbott Records; De Lore Nelson, accordion, and Mariam Saylor.”
(Photo courtesy of Discogs)
Ruppli’s King Labels discography reports March 29, 1951 to be the date of Jones’ first recording session at King’s Cincinnati studio (having left Capitol, her first label, for King). “Hi-Ballin’ Daddy” – one of four songs captured on tape at that first session – was her first single release for King:
Ann Jones (1951)
Another recording session followed eight months later at the King studio on November 9, 1951, and again, four songs would be committed to tape, including “Too Old to Cut the Mustard.” The next recording session at the King studio took place on June 6, 1952 (including “Smart Aleck“), while two more sessions would take place in Los Angeles the following year in May (“If I Was a Cat” & “A Big Fat Gal Like Me“). The final entry in the Ruppli discography indicates Jones’ last session for King to have taken place April 11-12, 1961 at the Cincinnati studio, with fifteen songs recorded, including “Hit and Run” and “Pieces of My Heart.”
78 RPM/45 World reveals King to have issued eleven 78 releases by Ann Jones, plus two LPs on King subsidiary, Audio Lab: 1959’s Ann Jones And Her American Sweethearts (highlights from her early 50s recordings) and 1961’s Hit and Run from Ann Jones And Her Western Sweethearts (14 of the 15 tracks laid down in April, 1961).
1959 LP –
vs. 1961 LP –
More traditional backdrop
From King’s 78 “biodiscs” (thanks, Randy McNutt!) we have learned the following information about Ann Jones:
- Altho(ugh) all her kin are still in Kentucky, Ann was born in Kansas and attended school there.
- Ann’s biggest seller was “Give Me a Hundred Reasons” [1949 debut single on Capitol] – she says that what success she has enjoyed to date is due primarily to the disc jockeys, who have been almost completely responsible.
- Ann Jones, besides being the favorite girl hillbilly singer of thousands of fans, is also an athlete. She was a star softball player in California before devoting all her time to music.
- When Ann is free to relax and enjoy her hobbies, you can find her at the best fishing spot in the neighborhood, or else at the ball park watching her favorite baseball team.
- Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, Ann Jones has blue eyes and is 5’6″ tall. Fishing is her main hobby when she isn’t busy singing or composing songs. She has written over 150 original compositions.
- Besides fishing, Ann loves baseball. She used to play softball before she devoted full-time to music. She seldom goes to baseball games anymore because she always yells herself hoarse.
McNutt notes in King Records of Cincinnati that Ann Jones “once said that she started writing songs because so many were written for men singers.”
Robert K. Oermann, in his entry for Ann Jones in The Encyclopedia of Country Music – Compiled by the Staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, observes that “much of her material was self-penned, making her one of country’s trailblazing female composers.”
A tall tip of the hat to music historian Dave Schroeder, who informs Zero to 180 (via the comments attached to this piece) that Billboard, in its January 1, 1955 edition “incorrectly lists Vancouver, British Columbia as the band’s home base – it should be Vancouver, Washington, not far from Portland,” and that furthermore, “to my ears, the 1950s recordings (1st Audio Lab LP) used King studio musicians, while those from the early 1960s (2nd Audio Lab LP, Hit and Run) featured Ann’s band, The Western Sweethearts.“
Steel Guitar Who’s Who:
Schroeder also generously offered up this high-rez image of top steel guitar talent (including Blanche Emerson) from the Fender booth at a 1957 radio DJ convention – special thanks to The Steel Guitar Forum for identification of each musician:
Back row (L to R):
Jimmy Day; Johnnie Siebert; Jerry Byrd; Leon McAuliffe; Sonny Burnette;
Speedy West; Buddy Emmons; Don Helms; Bob White; Bob Foster
Front Row (L to R):
Linda Reilly; Don Worden; Blanche Emerson
The second Billboard column quote incorrectly lists Vancouver, British Columbia as the band’s home base – it should be Vancouver, Washington, not far from Portland.
To my ears, the 1950s recordings (1st Audio Lab LP) used King studio musicians, while those from the early 1960s (2nd Audio Lab LP, Hit and Run) featured Ann’s band, The Western Sweethearts.
Thanks for compiling all of this info – there’s a 1957 group photo of steel guitarists (Fender booth, DJ convention) that includes Blanch Emerson, which can be viewed here: https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=253577&sid=8b24a757cd7f8258f22cdfa60bba6a52
(I believe the other female steel guitarist in the photo is Marian Hall, of Town Hall Party/Ranch Party fame. I have a far better scan I can e-mail you, if you’re interested).
Ann Jones was my great Aunt. Her sister Irene was my grandmother.
Where was Ann born? My mother named me after her because they were such good friends. My mother built and ran (with my Dad) the Division Street Corral in Portland, OR. Her name was Adoline Ceciliani.
Reply to Susan Crew- Jack Matthews was my father. Irene and Ann were both his sisters. He lived in Virginia, not Kentucky. Please get in touch.