Deb Cavanaugh – Perspectives – Stephanie J Bartik

Written by on October 11, 2023

Deb Cavanaugh – Perspectives.

Perspectives: Shining a light on the work of those working in non-traditional roles.

Today, we speak with Deb Cavanaugh, a true local legend.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, where traditions often clash with innovation, Deb Cavanaugh stands as a beacon of resilience and creativity. Her story is not just one of musical prowess but a narrative of a woman who defied norms and broke through barriers in the male-dominated world of blues and folk.

Born into a musical family, Deb’s journey into the unconventional began at a tender age. Her early exposure to blues, jazz, and big band music laid the foundation for a career that would span over six decades. In a departure from her classical training, she delved into rock and roll with her first husband, forming the band General Eclectic. This was just the beginning of a musical odyssey that would see her explore folk, experiment with Psychedelic Folk, and eventually embrace a full-time career as a musician.

However, being a woman in a male-dominated field was not without its challenges. Deb faced stereotypes and expectations that sought to confine her to a predefined role. The pressure to be attractive while remaining silent about the music itself was an early hurdle. Yet, with determination and resilience, she navigated through issues with sound technicians and recording sessions, carving her path through a sometimes-unwelcoming terrain.

Deb’s experiences parallel those of other trailblazing women who paved the way in male-dominated fields. Marion Campbell, a figure of inspiration for Deb, worked her way up in journalism during a time when women were expected to focus solely on marriage and family. In the face of similar challenges, Deb found strength in the examples set by those who defied societal expectations.

The music industry, with its often-harsh judgments and biases, required Deb to develop a thick skin and a keen sense of when to stand her ground. Her unique perspective as a woman and mother, coupled with her unwavering spirit as a survivor of abuse, became the driving force behind her success. She stands tall as a testament to the strength that can be found in adversity.

For those looking to follow in her footsteps, Deb’s advice is both practical and empowering. Don’t give up, stand up for yourself, and seek support from those who have faced similar biases. Her openness to new opportunities, coupled with a willingness to embrace challenges, has taken her to unexpected places and expanded her influence globally.

In a career marked by its fair share of challenges, Deb remains focused on the future. Her plans to delve deeper into songwriting and performing reflect a commitment to constant evolution. Her emphasis on staying connected with colleagues, supporting local musicians, and actively participating in her community underscores the importance of relationships in a non-traditional role.

Deb Cavanaugh’s story transcends music; it’s a narrative of breaking boundaries, fostering inclusivity, and inspiring resilience. Her journey is a testament to the idea that with unwavering dedication, one can not only survive but thrive in any field, regardless of how unconventional it may seem.



Column by Stephanie J Bartik.

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