San Francisco’s all-gal urban old-time teardown, THE STAIRWELL SISTERS, have amassed a rowdy repertoire of timeless tunes plus a solid standing of smart, original material that is winning praise on a national level. Counter-culturalists of every generation enjoy their energetic musicianship, tight vocal arrangements and red-hot buckdancing.

In the past year, the gals have appeared on the nationally syndicated A Prairie Home Companion, as well as festival stages from Lincoln Center in NYC to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in SF, Celtic Connections in the UK, and many points in between. They have been featured in fRoots magazine and The Old Time Herald, and garnered rave reviews in the press. In the Spring of 2008 they will release their third CD, produced by Austin's Lloyd Maines (Dixie Chicks, Waybacks and many more).

Stephanie Prausnitz (fiddle) and Evie Ladin (banjo/clogging) are steeped in the old-time repertoire, bringing tunes with just the right intensity to suit the quintet's dynamic feel. Lisa Berman's unique approach to the dobro adds a grit that walks a line through country and blues. Martha Hawthorne (bass) and Sue Sandlin (guitar/tiple) motor the band forward with their lock-step rhythm. All of the sisters sing, and they have a knack for infusing the old music with intoxicating energy and soul.

"A powerhouse ensemble"

"Vocal prowess with skilled multi-instrumental chops and a hellbent-for-leather attitude."

"Male or female, one of the best bands in the biz."

“Five multi-instrumental, singing, dancing old-time gals hit the UK…their sassy modern take on southern old-time string band music was so feisty..they caught everyone’s attention.”
FROOTS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The Stairwell Sisters formed in a quick minute, in a flat overlooking the hills of San Francisco in the year 2000. Their musical tastes, personalities, and driving groove fell right into place, and has been notably honed over the years, creating a unique Sister sound.

Long-time music companions Lisa Berman and Sue Sandlin sing signature harmonies that were first cultivated in the stairwell of their workplace in the city. Graphic designers by day, they performed for a while as The Stairwell Sisters, as a duo and with other guests.

Lisa met Stephanie Prausnitz when they played with The Crooked Jades (Martha was also a member of The Jades for a time), Evie Ladin came fresh off the boat of the Midwest and East coast old-time music and dance scenes, lulled to the West Coast by love. Martha Hawthorne came looking for a clogging teacher, and met Evie through mutual friend Suzy Thompson.

Maturing into their sister sound, the band recorded their debut CD, The Stairwell Sisters, in 2003. Their second CD, Feet All Over the Floor was recently released in 2005.

All of the Sisters contribute material and ideas to the band, and have garnered quite a following for their dynamic show.

They live up to their motto "good-time gals love old-time tunes."

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Stephanie grew up at the edge of Berkeley, to the beat of hippie drums at sunny Lake Anza. When introduced to southern-style dance music in Atlanta, Georgia, Stephanie submitted to the call of the devil's box and started fiddling. Stephanie looks for just the right tunes to suit the Sisters' chomp and jive. She's been known to tell the audience to "Get up!" and challenges anyone to find a physically bigger mouth than hers.

Stephanie's got a soft spot for: nerds, bad jokes, good politics, brain science and non-fiction. Her favorite soft spot is the hachiya persimmon.

Influences: Tommy Jarrell, Arthur Smith, Bruce Molsky, Jerry Garcia, Jackie Burgess, Adam Tanner, The Crooked Jades, and picksters at Grass Valley & Weiser.

Brushes with Greatness: Played tunes with Art Stamper, Laurie Lewis, Mike Mumford. Was ignored by Bill Monroe. Won second place Bluegrass Banjo at the Chiliwack Festival in BC, Canada.

Brushes with Death: "I was hanging out in the middle of the road, and when a car came racing down the street, I ducked."

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EVIE LADIN - banjo, clogging

Evie Ladin has been playing clawhammer banjo and dancing since a very young age, with her sister Abby. Raised on Southern music and dance from Northern New Jersey, their home was seated on the path of the first Folk Revival. The house served as a hostel for musicians and dancers travelling through, prompting the common introduction of "I stayed at your house once" from both the who's who of traditional music, as well people she's never met or doesn't remember.

Evie's got a soft spot for Loretta Lynn, the Coalminer's Daughter, and therefore Sissy Spacek. Whitefish salad. Baby Clay.

Influences: Favorite banjoistas: Travis Stuart, John Herrman, Richie Stearns, Robbie Robertson, Jake Owen, Maxine Gerber, me.
Favorite fiddlers: Frank Hall, Sarah Westhues, Bob Herring, Sammy Lind, Joe Dawson, Earl White, Rhys Jones, June Drucker

Brushes with greatness: Full page article in the Windsor Heights Herald (Dec. 28, 1978) "The Secret Lives of Evie and Abby: students by day, cloggers by night.". Jiffy Lube Athlete/Scholar Awards (only student in history to receive both). Danced with my sister for the President of Nigeria, in their capital. Wheatland late at night. Ginny Hawker liked my singing. My husband.

Brushes with death: "My second concussion I pretty much got creamed on my bicycle by a traffic accident. Lucky to be alive. Especially lucky I can still dance."

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Martha survived growing up in Orange County—homophobic arch conservative Bible thumping Nixon country—by eating avocados, raising corn, sheep, goats, chickens and escaping to San Francisco at 18.

Soft spots: dark chocolate, thrift stores, gender benders, union activists, all night jams, teenagers who play classical music and jazz, Texas two-steppers.

Influences: Mother Pluckers, SF Folk Club, Hazel Dickens, Ralph Stanley, Delmore Bros, Ola Belle Reed, Karl Marx, Leslie Feinberg, Franz Fanon, Harvey Milk, Victor Jara

Brushes with greatness: As a waitress served dinner to Angela Davis and breakfast to Francois Truffaut and Julia Child. Played electric bass with all gal Tex Mex Band, "Cafe Con Leche." Blocked traffic with other musicians at the intersection of Bush and Powell for 4 hours on March 19, 2003. Original song published in Folknik (Winter, 104).

Brushes with death: Born again at a Christian youth rally. Ran from cops at demo in fascist Spain. Hitched across Algeria disguised as a guy. Played bodran at an Irish session. Sorted tomatoes for catsup at Hunt's Foods.

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SUE SANDLIN - guitar, tiple

Sue was born and raised in that mecca of high culture, Fremont, CA - a city known for its glittering strip malls, gigantic GM plant, and bored teenagers riding around in muscle cars. As the old saying goes, you can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can't take the wine cooler out of her hands.

She's got a soft spot for loudmouths, accordion players, junkyards and underdogs. So naturally, this red sister grew up to be a socialist. When she's not pickin her guitar, she's pickin fights with The Man.

Influences: my sisters, my fella, Texas crooner JD Gilmore

Brushes with greatness: Partied in the Metallica Snake-pit. Slow danced with Shecky Greene. Was spit upon by former SF Mayor Willie Brown. Served as a bodyguard for Ralph Nader.

Brushes with death: Was once shot at by the Oakland Police. Nearly trampled after showing up late (and 'lil tipsy) to a contra dance.

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LISA BERMAN - dobro/slide, banjo, guitar

For Lisa it all began in Chicago. Blame it on her Grandpa Harry and his handmade one-string fiddle (complete with pink powder puff chin rest and optional walnut or pistacio shell bridges...tonal quality options, you understand). Along came her banjo-picking Pops...it was just a matter of time.

Soft spot for: Yard sales, crooked tunes, "sniff" art, underdogs, silly red gals, & her Grandma Berdie

Influences: Her dear crazy family, Hazel & other frisky singers (dead & alive), Paris-Texas slide, 10 yrs with The Crooked Jades, Son Jarocho, & her husband, Elton John.

Brushes with greatness: Sang Ira's part on "Runnin' Wild" with Charlie Louvin. Smoked cigars with Jerry Douglas. Raised a ruckus with Martha at Bush & Powell (see above). Met BB King in Vegas when her Dad's band "Kaliedoscope" played with him in the 70s.

Brushes with death: Did time in Disneyland's slammer. Ducking under telephone wires while riding on top of a bus in Guatemala. Survived drink-offs between her high school club BCDC (Brain Cell Destruction Co.) and EHFC (Eddie Haskel Fan Club). An out-of-body experience (due to all of the above).

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The... Scarewell Sisters, Salvage Sisters, Stairway Sisters, Stare Well Sisters, Sterile Sisters, Stepford Sisters, Stillwell Sisters, Estero Sisters, Steroid Sisters, Sierra Sisters, Stairweell Suisters, Stairwell Si, & Snackwell Sisters...