"Lily May, the Mountain Gal:" the Female Country Musician as Comic Strip Heroine, 1936-1937

Lily May Ledford (1917-1985) is remembered in Applachian and traditional country music circles as leader of the first all-girl string band, the Coon Creek Girls, and as long-time star of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. In later years, she appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, made new recordings, and on her deathbed became a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Award. However, there is another aspect of Lily May Ledford's career as a popular culture figure that has largely been overlooked. She is the first, and perhaps only, musical figure to be the heroine of her own comic strip. From October 1936 through August 1937, "Lily May, the Mountain Gal" ran as a regular feature in the WLS radio magazine Standby. While the strip is loaded with the usual hillbilly stereotypes, Lily May not only displays her real life superior fiddle skills, but uses her innate down-home common sense to outwit and upstage a bevy of city slickers, her own relatives, and fellow rustics. The presentation is illustrated with many examples of the comic strip.