A Swing Jazz Musical Honoring the Women of WWII

Book and Lyrics by Karen Houle Johns
Music by Karen Houle Johns and Kevin A. Sanders
Orchestration, Woodwind and Brass Arrangements by Reggie Murray
Additional Woodwind and Brass Arrangements by Jim Hoke

The AMERICAN MOTHER LODE musical features several songs that hit Top 10 and Top 40 Jazz Charts on previously released LP recordings by acclaimed jazz artist ensemble Karen Johns & Company.

It's more than a musical... it's a treasure!
- Michael Hood, Vice President of the National Theatre Conference

The songs Karen Houle Johns writes are so poetic and narrative, it appears that she has added a few more pages to the American Songbook of jazz standards.
- Ginny Kennedy, NPR, Huntsville, Alabama


The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - launched a mass enlistment of the American men into the armed services. Upon their deployment, an unprecedented number of women mobilized into an enormous labor force focused on and dedicated to the war effort.

American Mother Lode is a two-act swing jazz musical created in honor of the women of World War II. The key players in this story are six women: three Navy WAVES and three shipyard welders. In contrast and comparison with the supporting male cast, these strong archetypes represent the larger female demographic of that period. With the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution on August 18th, 1920, women were granted the right to vote, and to that end and perhaps without realizing it, the World War II female work force catapulted the Women's Rights Movement into the future.

The storyline spans 1941 to 1948 and signifies both the progress and the struggle women experienced culturally, socio-economically, and historically. The three Navy WAVES officers are affluent, privileged college graduates and their co-stars are industry trained, certified welders. Though they each hail from various regions of the country and different cultural backgrounds and social strata, the women forge an endearing friendship that chips away at long-standing class divisions, and pulls gender equality under the magnifying glass. These sensitive, polarizing concepts are lyrically addressed in several musical numbers, including “The Admiral’s Daughter,” “I Love a Stranger,” “I Speak Woman, You Speak Man,” “We Don’t Need No Dames Here,” and “Woman’s Work.”

Meet the Navy WAVES: Officer Margaret Benning is the lovely and confident Bostonian daughter of a prominent, retired Navy Admiral who disparages her courageous break with conventions including her marriage to a Southern U.S. Army Captain. Officer Evelyn Reynolds is the bold, sophisticated debutant from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She exudes the charm of Vivian Lee and the sass of Mae West rolled into one. Officer Deloris Doyle—aka “Del”— is the brainy, book-smart native of New York. She may have been the sure-footed college valedictorian, but she’s admittedly awkward in the social scene.

Meet the Women Welders: Wanda Schimanski is the daughter of Polish immigrants, the wife of her childhood sweetheart, and the mother of their two daughters. Her impeccable work ethic and enthusiasm burst forth in the showstopper, namesake number “Wanda the Welder!” Marnie McNally is the spunky dancing-darling whose ultimate wish is to settle down and get married, but in the meantime, she’s a pistol with a welding torch. Lavonne Peyton is the loyal go-to gal and the glue that holds them all together as she waits faithfully for her husband’s return from war. From the opening curtain to the last note played, we laugh out loud with our war-worker girlfriends, but we also cry with them.

Fiction created from history, AMERICAN MOTHER LODE is a soundtrack of World War II in celebration of the 1940’s big-band swing and jazz-pop culture. With jitterbug crowd teasers like “Soldier Boy Christmas” or “Carry Me Away,” the AMERICAN MOTHER LODE musical encapsulates that romantic golden era, beckons the coming baby-boom period, and foreshadows the ever-increasing plea for equality to all generations, tying the past to the present to the future.

Karen Johns & Company



Disc 1 = Act 1 & Disc Two = Act 2

Published by Vital Force (ASCAP) and produced in Nashville, this double CD album is a studio-recorded performance of the AMERICAN MOTHER LODE musical score. It is state of the art quality and includes some previously released songs that hit Top 10 and Top 40 Jazz Charts. Specifically produced to accompany the musical score and libretto in aid of live production teams, it is not available for retail sale. (Click on image)

AMERICAN MOTHER LODE is the ideal musical production for large, medium or small theatres, touring production companies, repertory, community, or academic theatres, etc. There are twenty-six characters in this musical, however the scenes are strategically designed so that a talented cast as small as nine (9) could successfully perform all of the main and supporting characters. Likewise, musical scores are available for musician ensembles ranging from a large jazz orchestra to a small jazz trio and any size combo in between.


One Sheet Download (Click on image)