In the mid-'50s, West sang at the Asheville Annual Folk Festival and Mountain Youth Jamboree, and won first prize in a ballad-singing competition in Nashville, TN. In 1959, West went to New York City where she studied music at Mannes College and drama at Columbia University. She was soon distracted from her studies by the burgeoning music scene in the North. "When I arrived in New York, the folk song revival was on," West wrote, "but I found something insulting in the way people looked at the South, and in the way northern youngsters sang songs born in the South. So I took to singing the songs whenever I could, partly to clear up misunderstandings, and partly, I suppose, to compete with the other singers of the folk song revival."
She appeared in a Sing Out! hoot at Carnegie Hall and performed at the Indian Neck Festival in 1961. As a result of the latter performance, Manny Solomon signed West to Vanguard Records. She recorded New Folks in 1961 and followed with Hedy West Accompanying Herself on the 5-String Banjo and Hedy West, Vol. 2. She played the coffeehouse circuit, receiving prestigious bookings at Gerde's Folk City and Caffe Lena in the early '60s. "By the mid-'60s," Irwin Stambler wrote, "West had sung at most major festivals in the United States and given recitals across the country."
West continued her career in Los Angeles, married, and eventually moved to England, where she recorded Pretty Saro, and Other Songs From My Family and Ballads for Topic Records. After seven years in England, she moved to Germany and recorded Getting Folk Out of the Country with Bill Clifton. In 1970, West returned to the United States to study composition with David Lewin. A number of West's albums were reissued in the 1980s and 1990s. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi