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Roba Stanley

Roba Stanley's few recordings, done in a two-year stretch beginning in 1924, resulted in her charming nickname of "the first country sweetheart," as well as some nine sides that have been reissued on various collections. As documents of the first woman soloist in country music to make records, these sides have garnered and are indeed worthy of considerable attention. Her version of the country standard "Single Life" got the jump on the better-known cut by the Carter Family by three years, and is different enough from that record to be considered an entirely original song. It also projects such a strongly feminist point of view that some listeners may wonder if country & western music was progressing backward, rather than forward, by the time it got to the '60s and "Stand By Your Man." As a child, Stanley would play guitar in her family's band, sometimes joined by famous old-time bandleader Gid Tanner, who was from the same region around the town of Dacula, GA. Her playing ability as a young teen was already quite phenomenal and while she was initially identified as being 16 years old when these tracks were cut, perhaps this was something of a ruse to throw off watchdogs of child labor laws. Research conducted on her background much later revealed the year of her birth to be 1910, meaning she was actually all of 14 when she recorded numbers such as the bluesy "All Night Long," thankfully no relation to the Lionel Ritchie disco hit. Her recording "Mister Chicken" is an honored part of the repertory of old-time tunes about chickens. She wound up in Gaineseville, FL, largely giving up music, but certainly making herself available to researchers from publications such as Old Time Music. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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