Pioneering record label founders to be honored at the 17th Americana Honors & Awards, September 12 in Nashville, Tennessee
The Americana Music Association® names Judy Dlugacz and Cris Williamson, two of the Olivia Records founders, as recipients of the 2018 Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive. The honor will be presented to Judy and Cris at the 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards, which will take place Wednesday, September 12 at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium.
Olivia Records quickly skyrocketed as one of the industry’s leading independent labels during the 1970s, releasing and distributing 40-plus albums and selling around one million records from pioneering artists including Williamson, Meg Christian, and June Millington.
One of those records was Cris’ “The Changer and the Changed,” which, with its groundbreaking songs about same-sex love, became one of the best-selling independent releases of all time and has been named by NPR Music critic Ann Powers as “the cornerstone of the feminist ‘women’s music’ movement.”
From sourcing independent distributors by openly recruiting interested concert-goers at live shows, to hiring female session players, to actively teaching women the trade of audio production so they were able to step into these more male-dominated roles in the studio, Judy and Cris proudly served at the forefront of the women’s music movement with Olivia Records. This revolutionary movement, which involved music created, performed and marketed specifically to women, laid out an unprecedented foundation more than four decades ago, setting the stage for artists who followed like Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls and Mary Gauthier to share their truth in song.
“We are absolutely thrilled to honor Judy and Cris at our premier event of the year,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association®. “Without question, these two women exemplify the power of community and have paved the way for generations of women in music to be rightfully heard in this industry and valued for their artistic vision.”
In 1973, Cris, a singer-songwriter and devoted feminist activist, suggested during a segment on Washington, D.C.’s “Sophie’s Parlor,” one of the first female-focused radio shows, that a record company should be formed to specialize in female artists. The folk artist was speaking at a time when the majority of record labels had only a handful of women on their roster because female artists were not perceived to be commercially viable.
Evidently, the seed of necessity had already long been planted. Even without mainstream support, women’s music was not only already reaching both men and women — but also deeply resonating with audiences because of artists like Cris and their empathetic songwriting about the human experience.
“The music went ahead of me — and it does,” shared Cris, recalling an early time when she performed at a show with around 600 attendees who were already familiar with her work, much to her surprise as that wasn’t the case on other tour stops. “That’s why we’ve got to protect the music of the world because its power as a messenger is incredible.”
What then resulted was an unstoppable collective of powerful women, including Meg Christian, one of the label’s first recording artists, Ginny Berson, Jennifer Woodul, Kate Winter and Judy Dlugacz, coming together to provide an opportunity for women to freely create and share music, speaking from their own experiences via a grassroots triumph.
Whether it’s been shown at packed-out concerts of 50 women in church basements or three sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall, Olivia Records has inspired a whole generation of female artists and audiences to find their voice. And the collaboration of these two women spanning over 40 years is a remarkable story of perseverance and dedication.
“Music has the power to change people’s hearts and minds,” Judy remarked, “and those who were most affected by the music were women who loved women. In a time when it took tremendous courage to come out as LGBT, Olivia spoke to an audience that wanted to be found but often didn’t want to be identified.”
Today, out LGBT artists have the innovative work of Olivia Records to thank in part for opening the doors and creating a cultural phenomenon.
Judy and Cris will be presented with this year’s Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive during the Americana Music Association’s® 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards, which includes six member-voted annual awards as well as several top Lifetime Achievement honors.
This announcement follows the recent unveiling of 2018 Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance recipient Irma Thomas, Americana Trailblazer k.d.lang, and Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist honoree Buddy Guy. This year’s nominees include Artist of the Year contenders Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Margo Price and John Prine — click here for a full list of this year’s nominations. The prestigious ceremony celebrates legendary mainstays and trailblazing newcomers as the hallmark of AMERICANAFEST® week, taking place September 11-16 in Nashville, TN.
Since its inception in 1999, the mission of the Americana Music Association® has been to advocate for the authentic voice of American roots music around the world. In recent years, the association’s unwavering dedication to artist advocacy has been evidenced by several milestones, including the addition of the Best Americana Album GRAMMY® category by the Recording Academy and Billboard’s Americana/Folk Albums Chart, as well as the inclusion of the musical term, Amer·i·ca·na, to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
For more information on the association or to purchase tickets for this year’s Americana Honors & Awards and passes to AMERICANAFEST®, please visit www.americanamusic.org.