Article Traces History of Women on The Row

Music Row hasn’t always been easy street for women in the music business. An article in the Nashville City Paper by Kay West includes interviews with some of the industry’s pioneering females, and others including Joe Galante and MusicRow’s own Robert K. Oermann.

Frances Preston signing Dolly Parton to BMI in the late 1960s. Front (L-R): Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. Back (L-R): Bill Earl Owens, and Preston. Photo:

In the article, Frances Preston recalls opening BMI’s first Nashville office from her home—where she still lived with her parents. Jo Walker-Meador discusses becoming the first female executive director of the CMA, only after Minnie Pearl stuck up for the young woman who had already been toiling away at the upstart organization for four years.

The report covers other women leading the industry in the ‘60s and ‘70s such as Maggie Cavender, who became the first executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association, and Dianne Petty who helped bring SESAC’s headquarters to Nashville from New York.

Well-known executives and friends Connie Bradley and Donna Hilley first met while working at an advertising and PR firm, and went on to head ASCAP and Sony-Tree, respectively. Nancy Shapiro paved the way for future females as executive director of the Nashville chapter of NARAS.

West reports on the present-day situation: “Five of the 11 VPs at Sony Music are women, as is half of Capitol/EMI’s senior executive roster. All were hired by the men running the label. What remains elusive: a female head of a major label.”

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About the Author

Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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