A few weeks ago, we were sent a video of a local piano player at a gig. The message posed the question if this woman had a story. It turns out, she did. Her story is about a love of music and using that music to be an agent of change.
"I'm the one chocolate cowgirl!" laughed Frankie Staton, sitting behind her piano. "I'm eastbound and down!"
Frankie was always drawn to country music, even before her days as a musician on The Ralph Emery Show.
"I thought that there were a whole lot of African Americans that liked country music but didn't feel welcome in it because they didn't see a reflection of themselves," she explained.
Frankie was looking to make changes in Nashville and add more faces to the country music scene.
In 1997, Frankie became the force behind the Black Country Music Association.
"I decided to challenge the story and have the first Black Country Music Showcase at the Bluebird Cafe," she said. "You can't fathom Black hillbillies? Okay, I'll show ya! They were like, 'who are these people? Are they Black?' I'm, like, 'yes!' Some people would say, 'I'm glad to see you guys! Where you been?' I'm like, 'trying to get in here.'"
Growing to more than 80 members, Frankie wanted her artists on the radio, on records.
"There were representatives at my showcases," she said. "They felt their market was not in the Black community. It was just a closed industry. They didn't see where we could benefit them. They just didn't see it."
After years of work, the Black Country Music Association ended.
"We went as far as we could go," said Frankie.
Still out playing at gigs including Bella Notte at City Cafe in Brentwood, Frankie's proud when she sees a record by a Black artist on the country charts.
"You have Lil Nas X," said Frankie. "You got Jimmie Allen, Rhiannon Giddens from the Chocolate Drops, y'know? We're gonna create it for ourselves whether the industry is involved with us or not. We're gonna do it on our own."