PEGGY GILBERT &
HER ALL-GIRL BAND
Peggy Gilbert, born Margaret Fern Knechtges (1905-2007), arrived into a musical family and grew up hearing music in her house every day. Her father was a violinist who played in theatre pit bands in Sioux City, Iowa, and her mother sang for touring opera companies whenever they appeared in town. Margaret started taking piano lessons at 8 and soon after accompanied her father at stage shows.
But it wasn't until after she turned eighteen that Margaret took up the saxophone. At the time, there weren't many girls playing horns, but she immediately took a liking to the free and loose feel the saxophone gave her. In the early 1920s, girl bands had become fairly common and the notion that one could make such a living intrigued the young musician.
Peggy soon organized the first all-girl band, "The Melody Makers," in Sioux City, where her group found success playing twice a day at the Martin Hotel. Before long, the band's music was heard nightly on KSCJ, a fledgling radio station in 1927, making Peggy a broadcast pioneer.
A professional tenor saxophonist for more than eighty years, Gilbert inspired several generations of musicians and continued to perform professionally into her nineties. Her last band, "Peggy Gilbert and the Dixie Belles," played hot Dixieland jazz on national television, at jazz festivals, and in concerts from 1974 until 1998. Their appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Golden Girls, Ellen, and Simon & Simon, among other programs, made them famous coast-to-coast, even as octogenarians.
In Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band, Jeannie Gayle Pool profiles the fascinating life of this multi-talented saxophone player, arranger, bandleader, and advocate for women instrumental musicians. Based on oral history interviews and Gilbert's collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia, this book includes many materials not previously available on all-women bands from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. This volume also includes a chronology, bibliography, appendices, and index.
Originally published by Scarecrow Press, this book is available in a revised edition from Jaygayle Music Books. Click here to buy it now.
“A joyful celebration of one woman's extraordinary life.” - Leonard Maltin
"Women's studies and music collections at the college level need this important reference." - Midwest Book Review, August 2008
“Pool's profile of Peggy Gilbert's life, as well as the experiences of women musicians in general, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century in Southern California, is an important addition to the literature on American jazz and women jazz musicians. It is also a highly readable and enjoyable work, which I recommend to both public and academic libraries. Pool is perhaps the single most qualified person to write Peggy Gilbert's biography, given her intimate familiarity with the history of women in music in Southern California and long-standing friendship with Gilbert.” - Music Reference Services Quarterly, Jan-June 2009
“If male jazz musicians could achieve royal rank, providing us with a Duke and a Count, Peggy Gilbert's career was clearly a testament to her progression from Princess to Queen Mother.” - Larry Gelbart
"Peggy Gilbert was a member of a musical family and grew up hearing music in her house: she was a professional tenor sax player for over 80 years and inspired generations. Her life, contributions, and ideas is based on oral history interviews and her own photo collection, newspaper clippings and more - and includes many materials not previously available on all-women bands from the 1920s-40s. Women's studies and music collections at the college level need this important reference." - Midwest Book Review