Pauline Reese: A pioneer in a man’s world of outlaw country
If Pauline Reese had been born in the 1800s, she would have used a plow and a Henry rifle to carve her place the Wild West. Instead, she’s slinging a guitar and sharp-edged lyrics to blaze a trail in a man’s world of outlaw country music and staking milestones along the way, including praise from Willie Nelson as his favorite female vocalist and from the Texas Music Awards as the reigning entertainer of the year – the first woman to earn that honor.
Like pioneering country artists Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn, she battled chauvinistic attitudes and come-ons with comic flair while facing adversity with true grit, such as at a Pat Green concert with no accommodations for women.
To make her own changing room, Pauline stretched a bed sheet across the doors of her crew cab truck.
When club owners would not hire her, claiming women do not draw crowds and amp up beer sales, she proved them wrong.
When radio programmers preferred spinning guys over gals, she persuaded them to give her a chance and earned such hit singles on the Texas Music Chart as “Trail to Monterrey,” “One Less Honky Tonk” and “Lone Star Flag.” She strengthened relationships by visiting every alternative/country station in Texas and Oklahoma at least five times.
Legends were born when Pauline rode her horse Blue Diamond into shows at famed dance halls across Texas and sang the National Anthem from the saddle at rodeos and sporting events, including one for 83,000 people at a University of Texas football game.
Pauline served as an inspiration as the only woman in Texas Music – a no-holds-barred blend of alternative country, rock, Western swing, honky-tonk, folk and Tejano – going head-to-head with Jack Ingram, Kevin Fowler, Cory Morrow, Roger Creager, Reckless Kelly and the Randy Rogers Band. Her advice was sought by the likes of Miranda Lambert, Sunny Sweeney and Bonnie Bishop.
And for good reason.
At age 15, she joined a band composed of men in their 40s. Two years later, she fronted it as The Pauline Reese Band. About the same time, she met Willie Nelson and was welcomed into his inner circle of friends including legendary songwriters Sonny Throckmorton (George Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away”) and Merle Haggard sidekick Freddy Powers (“Natural High”).
While writing songs with them and studying their music and the artists they admired, she toured and worked odd jobs, from fixing guitars and selling hot dogs on a stick to making titanium kneecaps in a machine shop.
Honing songwriting, guitar, vocals and showmanship while performing more than 170 concerts a year, Pauline steadily earned a fan base that allowed her to grow from opening act to headliner.
She performed at two of Willie’s Farm Aid festivals that included Dave Matthews, Neil Young and John Cougar Mellencamp and six of Willie’s fabled Fourth of July Picnics.
She had so much fun that four years ago she established her own, the Pauline & Outlaws Picnic. Guests have included Freddy Powers, Johnny Lee, Gary P. Nunn, The Derailers, Tommy Alverson, Todd Frisch, Kelly Kenning, Davin James and Willie’s daughter, Paula Nelson. Her fifth annual picnic is planned for late spring.
Pauline’s albums won critical acclaim since her self-titled debut in 1999. Willie joined her for a duet on “Pick Up the Pieces” on her 2004 CD “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” The Texas Music Awards bestowed album of the year honors on her 2007 CD “Too Texas,” a collection of her classics and others’.
Her sixth CD, “Just Getting Started,” reveals Pauline’s growth as an artist in a powerful collection of folk, pop rock and alternative and contemporary country that reflects a life being lived to its fullest – from a leaving a rocky marriage and finding new love and a new role as a wife and mother with two young daughters to all the highs and lows in between.
The seventh of eight children, Pauline was born in Mount Pleasant – Ray Price’s hometown – and grew up nearby in the tiny East Texas town of Pittsburg.
She lives in a 200-year-old board-and-batten house on a family ranch in the Texas Hill Country with her husband, PRCA champion saddle bronc rider Bill Herbert, daughters Heidi, 2, and infant Henli, five horses and her 13-year-old dog Baby Mae, who loves to watch rodeo on TV and often accompanies Pauline onstage to do tricks.
Last year, she assembled a touring band of top-shelf Austin musicians – lead guitarist Hunter St. Marie; bassist James Tommy, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music; drummer Matt Danko; and keyboardist Michael Davids.
For Pauline, there are plenty of trails yet to blaze. As the chorus in her latest CD’s title track says, “I’ve just hit my stride this ride ain’t over yet/ My heart is racing to see what’s waiting up ahead/ I’m about to make my mark/ Yeah, I’m just getting started.”
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