Script for November 2004, QMH:

Therese Edell - Good Friends Are The Best

You just heard Therese Edell, helped out by Betsy Lippitt and Karen Massey, singing "Good Friends Are The Best." That's from the CD version of Therese Edell's album "From Women's Faces."

Welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of each month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. Therese Edell is one of two very special pioneering lesbian artists I'm honoring tonight. The other artist is Casse Culver. What these artists have in common is that they both had a strong influence on the early women's music movement, and it went further than just their recorded work. They each essentially released only one album. Casse Culver released the album "Three Gypsies" in 1976, and Therese Edell's album, "From Women's Faces," came out in 1977. So, in my opinion, the way they both were able to be so influential was their presence at the early festivals, like the National Women's Music Festival, which started in 1974, and the Michigan Womyn's Musical Festival, starting two years later.

Casse Culver

In fact, for our first artist, Casse Culver, I'm beginning her segment with a very rare treat. I'm very pleased to share with you a live recording of her from the first National Women's Music Festival. That festival was held at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1974, as a direct response to the underrepresentation of women in the music industry. Little did they know what a cultural phenomenom they were starting. And this recording is also of historical interest because it's Casse Culver singing two years before she released her first album, and these two songs were not later recorded by her. Here are the songs "Watch Out Where You Step" and "It Is Me."

Casse Culver - Watch Out Where You Step / It Is Me (1974)

Next I'm going to play a song from Casse Culver's album, and then I'll tell you why that album was historic. The song is the title track, "Three Gypsies," and this is a good time to mention that the cover art for the album itself attracted a lot of attention. It's a color drawing of three nude women bathing in a pool by a waterfall, not your typical album jacket cover for 1976. Here's "Three Gypsies."

Casse Culver - Three Gypsies (1976)

Now, while the "Three Gypsies" album was influential for being one of the earliest openly lesbian albums, it's the way the album was recorded that's also of interest. Casse gathered together at a studio in Maine a who's who of women's music to help out, including Margie Adam, Kay Gardner, Maxine Feldman, Robin Flower, Willie Tyson, Susan Abod, and a number of other women musicians and technicians. Noted photographer Joan E. Brian, more known simply as JEB, was there to document the event, and took the very famous group photo of them in the back of an old pickup truck. You can see that photo on my website.

Also present was Barbara Price, known to many as Boo Price. She was one of the founders of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I interviewed her a couple years ago about another artist, and she also gave me these comments about Casse Culver.

Boo Price comments (2002)

When she made "Three Gypsies" that actually was quite a phenomenom because many of us were invited to Maine because Kay Gardner...are you familiar with Kay [Oh, yes] Kay Gardner was producing it, and so everyone who was going to be playing on it was invited to...this is not how you made records in these days or even those days actually, but it was our way.... was invited to come at the same time, ... I was invited to come at the same time. I was traveling at that time with Margie....[It was a who's who] Yes, we all lived in the same house. They put us up in a big summerhouse in Maine, and then everybody went to the studio every day and listened to whatever anybody was recording. I mean, you know, this is not how records are made...You can just feel the sort of fun and joy of that all the way through. It was really a community project. And Maxine Feldman was there because whe was about to do a 45 that Kay was going to produce, so she was on hand at the same time, as was Willie Tyson, because she was getting, trying to get the funding together to be the next album that they were going to do. So we were all there together. And there's actually a fairly famous photo of all these women in the back of a pickup truck [Yep, I got it] Well, I took the picture. [Oh, great] because everybody...Joan E who's the photographer, JEB, wanted to actually be in the picture so she set up the camera [that's right, she's in it, I have it right in front of me] I always told her I should have gotten a credit, of course she set it all up and all i did was take it. Anway, so all that crowd, we were all living there together. And I had met Casse, as I said, I had met her in L.A. but you know, I was one of those people sitting on the, um, sitting on the steps listening to that album being made, and it was quite an event.

One of the reasons I was on the road at that point was that we were headed for the very first one of these Michigan Women's Festivals. Of course at the time we didn't know it was the first one, we thought it was the only one. And I kind of, you know, talked Margie into going, so I definitely had to go. And Margie and I and Maxine and Willie Tyson flew out of Maine from that recording session together to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, which is where the first one was. And I think we were the only people in that group who went to the first event. They all thought we were a little bit nuts for going out and doing this funny thing in the field. [Do you have any more comments about Casse?] Well in some ways I thought it was a loss that Casse didn't stay involved in the music longer, although I know the path she's taken has been a good one for her. But...she was one of the..I think..one of the very strongest songwriter of the first group. She brought that whole side of the folk music that she brought, that was not really being represented as much, and again she was another really natural performer. Lots of joy in her performances. But really within several years she kind of went off in the other direction. [What's she doing now, any idea?] Yeah, the last I heard, which has been a few years was she became a minister, or a pastor of some particular Christian practice. She's a woman of the cloth, so to speak, in a very revival form. But in a way I guess that's a natural extension, a different way to go. [Jamie Anderson told me she saw her at a mid-80s festival, maybe one of the last ones she did, and she kind of turned some of the audience off because she put a lot of religious talk into it.] Well, she just went right on in that direction. So, I don't know, maybe it was part of the fervor of the early days that drew women with such tremendous sort of spiritual committment to the culture of women's music that it wasn't an unnatural step for some of them to go on in a literally spiritual path.

Above, Boo Price with Margie Adam

We'll hear from Boo Price again later in the show. I want to get back to some music by Casse Culver, and also to mention that a number of her songs have been recorded by other artists, which is always an indication of influence beyond an artist's own recordings. Here's the first track off her album. It's called "I'm Late Again," and I'm following it by a very rare 45 rpm record she recorded a year later, as a protest to Anita Bryant and her Bible bigotry. That song is called "What Are We Going To Do About Anita?"

Casse Culver - I'm Late Again (1976)
Casse Culver - What Are We Going To Do About Anita? (1977)

And, the last recording I know of by Casse Culver was from 1983. It's called "Ride, Sally, Ride" and is about Dr. Sally Ride who that year became the first American woman to fly in space.

Casse Culver - Ride Sally Ride (1983)
Big3 QMH ID

below, both sides of the pic sleeve from Casse's very rare 45

And, this is a good time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude. Also, I invite you to check out my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com where you can view the play list and see photos of the artists and recordings, and listen to the show anytime.

Therese Edell

I've got a special attachment to the other artist I'm featuring on this show, Therese Edell. She was one of the very first gay or lesbian artists that I saw in concert. That was in July of 1980, in Norfolk, Virginia, and I was very taken by her performance. Her music partner Betsy Lippitt backed her up on vocals and guitar and violin. Twenty-four years later I still remember where in the audience I sat. I just love her voice. I've told people that she had one of those voices where you hear her sing, and you want to hug yourself. Before I get much further I'd better let you form your own opinion. While Therese Edell is a wonderful songwriter, she's also a wonderful interpreter of the writing of others. Here are two examples, "A Woman's Love" and "Moonflower," and I'll tell about who wrote those songs after you hear them.

Therese Edell - A Woman's Love (1977)
Therese Edell - Moonflower (1977)

I'm going to tell you about the second song first. "Moonflower" was written by Annie Dinerman, who some of you may know as the writer of "Face the Music," recorded by Meg Christian.

The song "A Woman's Love" was written by Head Lesbian Alix Dobkin. In fact it was Therese Edell that gave Alix that nickname. I'll let you hear Alix talk about it.

Alix Dobkin comments (2002)

[I've heard you referred to as Head Lesbian. How do you feel about being a role model? ] Oh, I love that, that's great. Actually the way I got that title was from Therese Edell. Are you familiar with Therese? [very much so, yes] Well, she recorded "A Woman's Love," did you heard her version of it? [I love her version] Isn't it wonderful? Yeah, she started singing it way back in the 70's and she told me that when she first heard it she was so impressed, and she used to say this when she sang it. She said "when I first heard this I couldn't believe that anybody would actually write this. Wow, Alix Dobkin, she must be the head lesbian. So that's how she would introduce it when she sang it.

photo by Cathy Chapin

Therese Edell is an accomplished writer and composer, in a variety of styles, and I won't be able to do justice to all of them tonight, but I wanted to mention that she didn't shy away from controversial issues. Here's a little bit of her song "Take Back the Guns"

Therese Edell - Take Back the Guns (1977)

And her beautiful song, "Emma" dealt with the subject of battered women.

Therese Edell - Emma (1977)

With all her festival experience, it was natural for me to also ask Boo Price about her memories from those days of Therese Edell. You'll hear her tell how Therese got the title, The Voice of Michigan.

Boo Price comments (2002)

I think I met Therese...I think I first met her at the Michigan Festival...I don't believe, they weren't at the first one. If they were she wasn't performing, so I think it was the second one, in '77, and what a dynamo, that woman. She really was an incredible, natural performer, one of the stongest natural performers I ever knew or experienced. She had a huge amount of talent, so much vitality and connection with the audience. She's very, very funny, and from the start she had a very acute sense of feminist politics herself. I think, isn't "Emma" one of the songs on her first album [Yes] and nobody was talking about battered women then, and there she was with this incredibly beautiful song. So I know I met her when I was producing the stage and she was performing, and I think it was the first year that she performed...in the early days we were really figuring out how to do all the technical stuff outside. We were twenty minutes from Lake Michigan. We were always subject to the, you know, unexpected huge rainstorms. But one of those times we lost all the sound...Therese just got out there and did her entire show, you know, with her own voice, and absolutely captivated and held everybody. Well, that was something everyone always rememberd about her from the early festival days.

I don't remember when we first realized she had been diagnosed with MS, I would think early 80s, and then it was...it had a very slight effect on her..you know we knew she was dealing with it. Eventually when it really completely disabled her physically, then she wasn't really able to perform or to sing or to play the guitar, burt she was such a loved person at the festival, and we wanted her to be involved and she wanted to be involved. So we said why don't you...we had always rotated emcees. We didn't want anyone to be kind of The emcee. There were too many people to share it, so we just didn't want a single person to be that person. But then we said, why don't you...we would always just hand these announcements to the emcee. Oh my gosh you can't imagine all the different things that would need to be announced with all the thousands of women living on that land by that time for a week. And we said, why don't you do these as some sort of voice-overs from back stage, and we can set you up really comfortably and you know, whatever, and maybe you'll make them interesting enough that people will listen. And we tried it one summer and no one would let her go, and then that just had to be. And you know it would be things like somebody leaving their car lights on, or someone's child being here or there, all these sort of everyday life things that people would be much more likely to tune out and go off and do what they were doing. They became major entertainment moments of the festival. [She made them special] Oh, my gosh, and then again, so funny. That was an institution for a number of years....was Therese back stage. She's one of the bravest people, too, but always with the great sense of humor. [She got the title Voice of Michigan from that?] Yes, yes, exactly.

And Jamie Anderson had this to say about Therese:

Jamie Anderson comments (2002)

I think the first live women's music I heard was a Therese Edell concert, who I saw in Phoenix in 1977. She was definitely my inspiration when I first started performing out. She had that beautiful smooth alto voice and those well-written songs, especially the story songs, and her stage presence was very relaxed. She could be very funny, all those things inspired me to do my own music

For the next song by Therese Edell, I've got another rare live festival recording to share with you. It's from the National Women's Music Festival of 1979. It's called "Conversation."

Therese Edell - Conversation (1979)

That was called "Conversation." The next song is not by Therese Edell, but it's about her. I mentioned that Betsy Lippitt was her music partner, and sang on her album, and they toured together for years. Betsy released her own album in 1987 and one of the songs was called "For Therese"

Betsy Lippitt - For Therese (1987)

By Betsy Lippitt, that was simply called "For Therese." And that was not the only tribute recording about her. In 1990, to celebrate Therese's 40th birthday, a special concert was organized in Cincinnati, where Therese lives. Taking part were two women's choirs. One was Muse, which is the Cincinnati Women's Choir, and the Atlanta Feminist Women's Choir also came in for the event. Special solo performances of Therese's songs were done by Betsy Lippitt, Sue Fink, Deidre McCalla, and Kay Gardner, with Annie Dinerman and Louise Anderson and a number of others also helping out. Fortunately this event was captured and the CD, called "For Therese," is still available.

Gee, there are a lot of other songs by Therese Edell I wish I had time to play, but I highly recommend you track down her album. It was re-released in 1999, with bonus tracks, with the help of Ladyslipper Music, and that version was called "From Women's Faces, Plus"

Okay, I've got one more song for you to hear, but before I play it, I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to thank Boo Price, Alix Dobkin and Jamie Anderson for the interview comments. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And I wish you would. And again, my website, with information about all the songs you've heard, and a lot of special additional information about Therese and Casse, is at www.queermusicheritage.com. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the fourth Monday of next month with my Queer Xmas installment of Queer Music Heritage.

Okay, I asked Jamie Anderson if there were any songs by Therese that she wanted to comment on.

Jamie Anderson comments (2002)

I really like "Mama Don't Let Your Children Go." It's so funny, and it was so my life. Now, I didn't go to college at that point, at least when I first heard the song, so I didn't identify with that part, but I did identify with the part about the parent's voice, shaking their finger at the kids and saying, you're dressing like a boy. What are you doing? Are you smoking pot? What are you up to? you know it's like, it just made me laugh outloud.

Well, I laughed out loud at that song for another reason. It starts out "I shouldn't have sent you to Cincinnati, you'd have done better at Youngstown U." I went to Youngstown U, and loved that line. So, with our closing song, here's Therese Edell with "Mama, Let Your Children Go."

Therese Edell - Mama Let Your Children Go (1977)

This QMH touched a lot on women's music festivals. For an excellent book on the subject, I highly recommend the one shown below, by Dr. Bonnie J Morris, 1999. Also, one of the first phone interviews I did was with the author, and that can be heard on my Artist Spotlight page.