What began as a gig for Monica Taylor at the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, (which is held in Guthrie, OK), was actually a great opportunity knocking on her door. Robin Macy’s mom, after hearing Monica perform, said “You should meet my daughter. The two of you have similar interests, background and style.” Soon after, Taylor and Macy met, and “done a little picking and grinning.” Seizing the moment, these two ladies found their love, not only for music but for each other, and formed The Cherokee Maidens.
The Cherokee Maidens & Sycamore Swing lay much more on the table than swing music. This tri-state trio, made up of Robin Macy, Monica Taylor, and Lauren White cut their teeth on bluegrass music. Macy resides in Kansas, Taylor is from Oklahoma, and White, resides in Kentucky; however, the distance doesn’t keep these three talented artists from performing, recording and showing their sentimental side. Although miles apart geographically, The Maidens’ harmonies are right on spot and all three of these women were born with bluegrass in their veins.
Macy’s career was defined by bluegrass standards. She was performing at bluegrass festivals as early as age of 11, along with her sister, Amy, on banjo, and Jim Schultz on bass. Playing in the Mid-America bluegrass circuit growing up, Macy literally cut her teeth on bluegrass. The music was a way of life years before Macy turned 30.
Meeting the Lancaster family, Texas Shorty, and Sharon Gilchrist, assisted Macy to connect with the Erwin sisters. It was in the late 1980s that Macy and the Erwin sisters, Martie and Emily formed The Dixie Chicks. The Chicks were honored with the title of Best Band at the 1990 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Soon after, Macy left the band, as her dream was to be “purer” in the genre of bluegrass.
Macy’s career didn’t stop, in fact it took off. Robin continued to write and play in a bluegrass band at different venues in Dallas. Jeff Scroggins, banjo player, and a great musician, writer and friend accompanied her on stage. Before long, Macy had left playing with a trio of women, and joined yet another, the Domestic Science Club. This trio recorded two albums before disbanding.
Continuing a bluegrass style of life, Macy joined The Blue-Plate Special, who performed at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas in 1999.Big Twang was her next stop. A bluegrass quintet, founded by Macy, won the Rockygrass Band Championship in 1999. Literally making a wrong turn in Kansas turned out to be the right way for Macy. Robin is now, as she calls it, a steward at the Bartlett Arboretum. I found myself at the Bartlett Arboretum website, and thought this was a worthy quote to borrow, “The first line of Walden suggests that we go ‘to the woods to live deliberately,’ ” Macy says. “Mr. Monroe is credited with ‘the high, lonesome sound. For me, to create music and to live deliberately among trees – and to appreciate my fellow man – is the essence of my being.” The Bartlett Arboretum Treehouse offers a concert series at various times throughout the year.
So one could say that Robin’s life thesis may revolve around David Thoreau, and Bill Monroe. I know her music is Bill Monroe written, her style is original and her voice is one you won’t forget.
A Perkins, OK native, Monica Taylor’s roots are at The Farm, which is the epicenter of RED DIRT. Taylor, during a recent interview, in Stillwater, OK, told me she found her soul at the farm.
Taylor was given the nickname of Cimarron Songbird by Jimmy Lafave and Bob Childers because of her unique singing style, and the fact that she grew up near the Cimarron River. Monica sings from the heart, telling stories of red dirt roads, home, fence posts, sharing her Cherokee Indian heritage as well as her Scottish roots. Taylor’s style emulates Emmylou Harris, and she is an artist whose music is based on traditional values, but not hemmed in by it. She is host of the Cimarron Concert Series in Perkins OK., which is held at the Old Church. Without a doubt, a songbird, with a slight yodel in her voice, Monica can penetrate your soul with her vocals.
Lauren White, better known as Sis, grew up in the bluegrass world. Her roots can be traced back to 1909 where her paternal great grandfather played with the Pleasant Valley String Band of Grayson County, Kentucky. Though not related by blood to The Buck Whites, Sis jokingly tells me that “Sharon White raised her right, because I listened to her music for so long.”
Sis didn’t join the trio when it was first established, but she has the veins of true bluegrass running through her soul. She began playing the bluegrass circuit at the age of nine accompanying her brother, Kentucky, and has played behind many of the best flat pickers and fiddlers at fiddle contests across the country. At a festival in Lexington Kentucky, White became friends with Jerry and Kevin Williamson, of the Williamson Family. These two recruited her to play with Red Wing, where they traveled Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Michigan all the way to Hugo, Oklahoma. Currently, Lauryn is an active member of a local bluegrass band in Kentucky, Storefront Congregation, performing on The American Queen Steamboat. With footprints of bluegrass surrounding Sis in every direction, one can still catch the bluegrass in her harmonies and bass playing.
When you add the personalities of the three lovely ladies, you have The Cherokee Maidens. Deep musical roots, their passion for music and their melodic tunes will make their way into your heart. But what is a trio without a band?
They are supported on stage by Sycamore Swing, led by Macy’s husband, Kentucky – who just so happens to be the brother of Sis. Kentucky not only wears the hat of producer for these ladies, but is also well known as a songwriter and outstanding bluegrass musician.
While the Maidens are probably most known for their music, which was influenced by the likes of Bob Wills and Cindy Walker, you can throw in a mixture of the Andrews Sisters with their bluegrass roots, and what you have is pure talent. The Cherokee Maidens are not just swing, they are Gospel, pop, and swing, all bound by their roots of bluegrass.
Keep your calendars open because you don’t want to miss this trio when they are in your area.