Rattlesnake Annie (born Rosan Gallimore, December 26, 1941, Puryear, Tennessee, U.S.) is a country singer and songwriter under the stage name Rattlesnake Annie. She earned her nickname as a child from her respect of snakes. McGowan began recording music in 1974 and achieved success in Europe. She became the first female country musician to tour the Eastern Bloc countries in Europe and released an album with a country singer from Czechoslovakia. In 1990, she became the first American country performer to sign a recording contract with Sony Music Japan.
Rosan Gallimore was born December 26, 1941. She was raised near Puryear, Tennessee on a cotton and tobacco farm. Her great-great-grandmother was Cherokee, a tribe which considered the rattlesnake a symbol of healing. As a child, Rattlesnake had no fear of snakes, and her grandmother often called her "rattlesnake".
Rattlesnake's father had been a country and blues singer, and she was learned to play guitar at an early age. She earned her first paycheck from singing at age 8, and from then on her goal in life was to earn a living while making music. When she was 12, Rattlesnake and two of her cousins formed a band called the Gallimore Sisters. They performed locally and won a statewide talent contest in 1954 landing them an appearance in Nashville on the Jr. Grand Ole Opry and a live television performance.
At age 16, Rattlesnake moved to Memphis and then on to Huntsville, Alabama. In the early 1960s she moved to Texas, where she met and married Max McGowan. The couple purchased 200 acres (81 ha) of land along the Brazos River. The land had never been cleared or lived on.
Rattlesnake continued to pursue a music career, and in 1974 her first single, "Texas Lullabye", was released. She recorded her debut album, Rattlesnakes and Rusty Water, on her own label, Rattlesnake Records. At the time, it was unusual for a woman to play guitar in public, and it was also rare for a woman to produce her own songs. Rattlesnake reminisced of those early days: "I was breaking down barriers. If I could work like a man in the fields, why couldn't I play a guitar and cut records?"
Because of promotion and her focus for International music, her first album became popular in Europe. In the mid-1980s she became the first female country singer to play in the Eastern Bloc countries of Europe. She appeared on television in East Germany, and the West German branch of Greenpeace adopted one of her songs, "Goodbye to a River", as their anthem. In Czechoslovakia she recorded an album, Rattlesnake Annie and the Last Cowboy, with Czech country singer Michal Tučný.
In 1991, Rattlesnake became the first American country performer to sign a recording contract with Sony Music Japan. She expressed relief at the agreement, mentioning that "it's always been a hassle because they can never put me in a slot. What bin does the record store use for my records? ... When I signed with Sony Japan and they put me in their world music department, for the first time I felt free and understood." She and her husband moved to Japan, where they remained for 16 years. They have since moved to Spain.
Rattlesnake has recorded music in every country she has visited. In her career, she has recorded in over ten languages, including Czech, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Maya, German, and English. Many of her songs contain a political message. She says that "Songs are so important to make a statement on issues, and that's how I have used my music. Life is just full of objections, especially when you are a woman." In this vein, she has recorded songs for the Civil Rights Movement, for women's rights, and against the Vietnam War.
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