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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barbara Greenlief, April 27, 1996. Interview R-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Coon Creek Girls and John Lair's control over their image

Greenlief briefly discusses John Lair's efforts to market the Coon Creek Girls, an all-women music group. According to Greenlief, Lair hoped the Coon Creek Girls would be "spunky," but he did not want them to be too outspoken or to cut against the grain of gender norms. As elsewhere in the interview, she suggests that the Coon Creek Girls, her mother in particular, were seen as strong, independent women despite the fact that they were almost entirely controlled by men.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barbara Greenlief, April 27, 1996. Interview R-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LISA YARGER:
What do you think he was trying to achieve with the Coon Creek Girls? How did he want them to be perceived?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
He probably wanted them to be perceived as unique, you know, the first women string band, but yet, he did not want them to be perceived as feminists, or someone who would upset the apple cart in their community. You know, they were women who played music at dances or that would have been the representative, if there were women who played at dances, but he did not want to, like on a religious level or a social level, for them to be perceived as people who would go over the line.
LISA YARGER:
And those songs we talked about would have been pushing it because of the behavior in them.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. He wanted them to be spunky on stage, but he didn't want them to be feminists on stage. You know. And so he controlled that very closely. The kinds of things they said on stage—he didn't want them to say much. He just wanted them to play. And the things that they said on stage were usually led by men. You know, men were the emcees, or Slim Miller was the comedian. And they responded to that, rather than doing very much initial talking on their own.
LISA YARGER:
Although at one point, I don't know if Daisy told me this or I read this that your mother has said, that there was one emcee that was always nervous when the Coon Creek Girls were on stage because he never knew what they were going to say.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Oh!
LISA YARGER:
Maybe Daisy told me that. But it made me think that maybe they had a little bit of leeway, and this was in Cincinnati, but a little bit of leeway to kind of play around, to cut up a little bit?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Hmm! That's interesting.