Why don't more people know about Alice Stuart? It's a legitimate question, considering the fact that she's one of the very first women of rock. She was one of the first women to do it all: guitar player, leader of her own band, and performer on international rock tours. And she can rock with the best of them. In years past, Stuart toured Great Britain with Van Morrison. She performed with Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. Bonnie Raitt has cited the California-based guitarist as one of her influences.
Originally from Chelan, WA, Stuart headed for Seattle when her high school days were over. She got her start in a folk hangout called the Pamir House, then held a weekly gig on Hootenanny, a television program that aired weekly in the Seattle area. In addition, Stuart performed at the World's Fair in 1961. When she discovered the music of Furry Lewis, Blind Willie McTell, and Bessie Smith, she knew the blues was the kind of music she wanted play. She played the stage of the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1964, where she formed a friendship with Mississippi John Hurt. She made another appearance at the festival in 1966, and again four years later. In the following years, she performed with such artists as Hurt, Rosalie Sorrells, Jack Elliott, Doc Watson, Jerry Ricks, Phil Ochs, and Joan Baez.
Stuart eventually settled down in Berkeley, where she established a band in 1968, and frequently performed with a list of blues artists that included Hurt, Jesse Fuller, and Lightnin' Hopkins. During the Mothers of Invention's early days, Stuart threw her lot in with Zappa both musically and personally. The two met in California and began a love affair. Their musical styles, however, were radically different, and Stuart and Zappa parted ways. When things fell apart, Stuart dropped out of sight and settled down in Virginia City, NV. Several years later, back in Berkeley again, she began performing with a guitarist named John Shine. Her songwriting blossomed during this period and she submitted a demo to Fantasy. Soon Stuart established her band Snake with bassist Karl Sevareid and drummer Bob Jones. Her groundbreaking steps helped blaze a path for female musicians such as Raitt, Joan Jett, Melissa Etheridge, and Chrissie Hynde, among others. Artists who have recorded Stuart's songs include Kate Wolf, Irma Thomas, and Jackie DeShannon. ~ Linda Seida