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Roba Stanley
Born:  February 8, 1911
Died:  June 8, 1986
Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1983)
WSB Atlanta, GA

About The Artist

Although she did not realize it at the time, Georgia teenager Roba Stanley could claim the honor of being the first female country singer. Her father Rob Stanley was like his better-known neighbor Gid Tanner, a Dacula, Gwinnett County farmer and local fiddler of some renown.

Roba was born to parents Robert and Mattie (Potter) Stanley in 1911. Her parents were married on December 3, 1899 in Gwinnett, Georgia.

In August 1924, Rob, Roba and family friend William Patterson were in the Georgia capital where Ralph Peer and OKeh Records were holding sessions. This threesome cut two numbers as the Stanley Trio. Peer, who was impressed by young Roba's solo voice, asked her to do two numbers on her own — "Devilish Mary" and "Mister Chicken." Roba and her father also played several times on WSB radio and in some political campaigns.

Stanley later did two more record sessions in Atlanta, in December 1924 and July 1925, with her most notable number being a song called "Single Life," which contained the lines "I am single and no man's wife/And no man shall control me" which might be suggestive of a proto-women's libber."

However, it was not to be. Barely three months later, she met and fell in love with a young man from Miami surnamed Baldwin. The couple married, moved to Miami and her evolving career came to a sudden end. Her new husband did not approve of her singing out in public. She gave her guitar away after four months in Florida.

The Baldwins reared three children in the Sunshine State and eventually moved to the college town of Gainesville.

In 1977, historians Gene Wiggins and Charles Wolfe learned that Roba was still living. Interest in her career revived and she was interviewed and even made a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and was saluted from the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Two of her early numbers were reissued on the Rounder LP Banjo Pickin' Girl.

As the late Charles Wolfe concluded in an article reviewing her life in 2003:

"Roba passed away in 1986, still bemused at her pioneer status."

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank J. D. McConnell, who notes that Lennie Aleshire was his great grand uncle, for providing us biographical details and several photos. We've added to the biography from our collection.
  • Mountaineer Jamboree; Ivan Tribe; University Press of Kentucky; 1984
  • The Dial; July 1947; KWTO; Springfield, Missouri
  • The Dial; May 1946; KWTO; Springfield, Missouri

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
OKeh
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  40213 A Devilish Mary (w/Bill Patterson)
  40213 B Mister Chicken (w/Bill Patterson)
  40271 A Nellie Gray (as the Stanley Trio)
  40271 B Whoa Mule (as the Stanley Trio)
  40295 A All Night Long (w/Bob Stanley)
  40295 B Railroad Bill (w/Bob Stanley, Bill Patterson)
  40436 A Single Life
  40436 B Little Frankie (w/Bill Patterson)
  45036 A Old Maid Blues
  45036 B (Other Side by Ernest Stoneman)


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