Gloria Belle (Flickinger) is a bluegrass vocalist and instrumentalist, playing the banjo, bass, and mandolin. She was probably the first female lead singer in bluegrass, having begun her music career as early as 1957.
While not a native of the area, her early career centered around east Tennessee and western North Carolina. She was a performer on the Cas Walker show in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the early 1960s, beginning that position in September 1960. In 1965, she played with Raymond Fairchild in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, at the Ghost Town in the Sky. The next year, she made regular appearances on the Wheeling Jamboree in West Virginia, performing with Betty Amos's All-Girl Band. Most notably, she performed as a member of Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys during 1968-1975. With Jimmy, she sang lead and high baritone on multiple recordings, as well as played bass. She later toured the festival circuit with Charlie Monroe in 1973. She toured Japan with Martin during 1975. In regards to her playing, Martin said jokingly, "She's not very good, but we let her sing with us 'cause we feel sorry for her."
Awards and distinctions:
In 1999 she was presented the Distinguished Achievement Award by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and became one of the few females to ever earn that award. In 2001 she also received an IBMA award for Recorded Event of the Year for Follow Me Back To the Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass. Another IBMA award came in 2009 through her work with the Daughters of Bluegrass. She received a Recorded Event of the Year award with this group for "Proud to be a Daughter of Bluegrass." Currently, she fronts the band Tennessee Sunshine, which she formed in 1990. She married guitar luthier Mike Long of Mike Long Guitars on September 23, 1989. They reside in Nashville, Tennessee.