'Women in the Blues' as seen in Blues-E-News, 3/2014

As seen in the March issue of Blues-E-News
March, 2014
written by, Shari Puorto

When u think of The Blues and where it all began and with whom, who do you think of? Robert Johnson (born 1911)? Lightning Hopkins (born 1912)? Howlin Wolf (born 1910)? Muddy Waters (born 1913)? Well, what about the women who were also pioneers during this time and who continue to influence women today? What about Ma Rainey (born 1886), Bessie Smith (born 1894), Ethel Waters (born 1896), Memphis Minnie (born in 1897), Mammie Smith (the first black woman to record the blues), Big Mamma Thornton (born 1926); and all the other female performers. Instrumental in spreading the popularity of the blues, these women paved the way for women like me. 
Can you image how difficult it was for them to make a mark in the early 1900's? Not only because of their race but they were women! Women working late hours in bars, playing guitar, singing strong, standing tall and proud for what drove them. They didn't ignore the passion deep within their souls, no matter what the public thought! Music moved them to do something women were not thought of doing at that time.  And eventually it moved everyone too! I am so proud of these women and proud to be giving them props as I write on 'woman's day'. They deserve our time and recognition.
I can speak from experience as I'm a singer/songwriter and performer in this genre. Now, I'm not a traditional blues artist; I would consider myself a Blues/ Rock artist. But nonetheless, I am absolutely influenced by these woman (and others). I learned a lot from these ladies by paying attention to their majestic phrasing to their guttural voices and how they softly they pulled me, then spit me out with a vengeance! Meanwhile always knowing when I listened, they weren’t afraid to take chances. I’m sure other female artists have been influenced by these ladies too. Like some of my favorite female musicians: Bonnie Raitt, Barbara Morrison, Bonnie Bramlett, Eva Cassidy, Pat Benetar, Chrissy Hein, Susan Tedeschi, and the many other influential women still doin it strong (so many, too many to list)!
However, one woman stands alone and one who has always influenced me from a little girl, is Etta James. From her floor pounding aggressive vocal execution to her captivating tone and strength! Wow. Blows me away every time I listen to her. I found myself very emotional the day she passed (and I never met her!). I studied her and listened to her sing, I could feel her passion, her drive, her pain, her beauty.
Let's pick up our glass and toast these early woman Blues artists who stood strong and helped us see our potential thru what they accomplished.
I hope to continue performing and letting my soul shine (as Greg Allman says), and I can only hope I influence and effect some other young singer that might see me perform. I hope my performance will allow them to feel something deep within their soul they never knew existed (as I felt when I listened to Etta James, and of course, Aretha Franklin). Well, that's my two cents. Thanks for reading and see you at a show! Shari Puorto, Los Angeles singer/songwriter/performer. www.BluesRockMusic.com

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