The SteelDrivers’ Tammy Rogers Cheers Fellow Female Fiddler Jenee Fleenor’s Historic CMA Awards Win
Fiddle player Jenee Fleenor brought home a historic win at the 2019 CMA Awards, when she became the first woman ever to receive the trophy for Musician of the Year. Not only was Fleenor the first female player to win in the category, but she was also the first to even be nominated for that trophy since the awards show's inception in 1967.
Of course, just because no women were nominated doesn't mean there have been no women in the recording studios, songwriting rooms and tour buses that power country music's most beloved artists and songs. On the contrary, after accepting her CMA trophy, Fleenor made mention of the female artists who inspired her both as a young musician and after she moved to Nashville in 2001.
For example, the awards show fell just days after Fleenor made her Grand Ole Opry debut, an experience made even more unforgettable because Wanda Vick -- a lifelong hero of hers -- was playing in the house band that night. "It was amazing getting to talk to her. She was on TNN growing up, so that was a neat moment," Fleenor explained at the time. "But there's so many amazing women musicians out here -- my goodness. So, yeah, there should be many more in the session world, for sure."
Another trailblazing female musician, fiddler and SteelDrivers member Tammy Rogers, says she was excited to cheer Fleenor on as she received the historic award. "I've known Jenee for a long time, and I was so proud. She's worked her tail end off, I can tell you that right now," Rogers tells The Boot.
The SteelDrivers were founded in the mid-aughts, but a decade earlier, during the '90s, Rogers was a working session musician in Nashville. When she was fresh out of high school, she joined Patty Loveless' backing band, and subsequently backed Trisha Yearwood.
"You know, I'm kind of the generation before [Fleenor]. I definitely remember when I got here, in, like, '90, being one of a handful of girls that were playing. Not only touring -- 99 percent of the time, when I would walk into the studio, I would be the only girl unless the artist was female or the songwriter was female," Rogers recalls. "Musician-wise, there were just so few of us that were working, or that would get the call."
While there's still a massive gender imbalance in the music industry, Fleenor's win is an important step in the right direction. Not only does it offer Fleenor much-deserved recognition for her accomplishments, but her CMA Award victory's high visibility sends a powerful message to young would-be musicians who worry that their gender is going to be a liability if they decide to move to Nashville and pursue that dream.
"I'm glad to see it," Rogers adds. "And if that's opening more doors for more women and more young girls that are seeing her, and seeing all the awesome things that she's getting to do, that's only gonna make it better."
Unforgettable CMA Awards Controversies
These Country Stars Have the Most CMA Awards