Script for January 2003, QMH:
Phranc-surfer girl (1991)
Welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of each month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. I'll cover a lot of years and types of music. Mostly because I just don't think lesbian and gay music of the past should be forgotten, and I try to give a little information about the music as I go.
Welcome to my third anniversary show. I think I've got a good show lined up for tonight, and it includes a special interview with the members of Wishing Chair. I think they are among the best folk artists to come along in years, so please stick around for that. For the intro song this month I used Phranc's version of "Surfer Girl," from her 1991 album "Positively Phranc," and Phranc is spelled p-h-r-a-n-c. She's been producing openly lesbian music since her first release in 1985.
The first part of tonight's show will honor some of the lesbian performers of the earlier years of our music culture. And there's hardly a better place to start than with the first openly lesbian album. In 1973 in New York City there was a group called Lesbian Feminist Liberation, and one of their activities was to have musical performances at the Firehouse, which was in effect the unofficial gay & lesbian community center in the early 70s. As the story goes, one of the members was thinking that she'd really love to have a record of the music they do at the Sunday shows, so that she could hear it anytime, and then asked herself the question, well, why not record the show. And the rest is herstory. They recorded one the shows in 1973 and called the album "A Few Loving Women." It was essentially a talent show or open mic, and that's easy to tell musically. I want to play a set of three of the songs from the album. You won't be impressed by the singing, but these songs are definitely historical. The third song is really the noteworthy one from the album. The set starts off with "Women Like Me," and then one called "Edith."
Women Like Me
- Women Like Me
The first track was called "Women Like Me," and on the album it's listed as being done by "Women Like Me," and the second song, "Edith," was by Lucy Wilde. I strongly suspect Wilde was not her real name, and was chosen to honor Oscar Wilde, it's spelled the same way, and her girlfriend is also on the album and took on the name Martha Wilde. Anyway, on to the third song of the set, my favorite from the album. This artist did use her real name, Margaret Sloan. Here she is introducing her song "I'd Like To Make Love To You."
Margaret Sloan - I'd Like To Make Love To You
Well, as you can see the music was definitely done by amateurs, but I think that last song was pretty good. It was written and sung by Margaret Sloan. In the liner notes is a quote by her, "I chose to sing on this record, not because I am a singer, but because I wrote a poem once and happened to set it to music. I had become aware that there were hardly any direct, not subtle, love songs to women by women. Women must learn to write about, speak about, shout and sing about their feelings for one another. If the words of my poem ride on winds that blow closet doors open, then all women will have to sing it at least once."
I've got a little more background on Margaret Sloan. She is also known as Margaret Sloan-Hunter, and was one of the founding Editors of Ms. Magazine, and her activism included being chairwoman of the 2000 member National Black Feminist Organization, in 1974. She also published a book of poetry called "Black and Lavender." And, here's some trivia about Margaret Sloan-Hunter. In preparing this show I tried to contact her to request a short phone interview. Alix Dobkin is a friend of hers and gave me her number. I wasn't able to reach her but found out something else. I went to the website where you can plug in a phone number and get the name of who's number it is, and tried it. Margaret Sloan-Hunter's number was registered under the name Ima Butch. Now, how did she get away with that?
Some of you may be thinking, I thought Alix Dobkin had the first openly lesbian album. Well, almost and sort of. I interviewed Alix on my show last May, and I'll replay the clip of her explaining the difference.
Alix Dobkin quote (2002)
Next is a song that directly pays tribute to the lesbians of the 50s & 60s who made it easier for those who came after them. It's from 1983 by Judy Reagan, and is called "Hollywood Haircut".
- hollywood haircut (1983)
That second song was obviously called "Dyke," and both songs came from Judy Reagan's album, "Old Friends."
Here's another rare song, by DJ Adler. It's from her 1982 recording "Here and Now." One reason it's rare is that it only came out on cassette. This was common among independent artists of the 70s and 80s, because most could just not afford to put out an LP. And as a collector, this makes it much more challenging, because used record stores, or even eBay, rarely handle cassettes. Here's DJ Adler, with the "gay bar blues"
DJ Adler - gay
bar blues (1982)
and of course following DJ Adler was Lily Tomlin with one of her special routines from the 70s.
And on to another artist whose work only came out on a cassette. In 1991 Anne Seale released a tape called "Sex For Breakfast," and it contained these three humorous songs
Anne Seale - your women's bookstore / women womyn wimmin / lesbian cemetery (1991)
That was Anne Seale, singing "your women's bookstore," "women womyn wimmin," and "lesbian cemetery." And in the title "women womyn wimmin" she spelled it w-o-m-e-n, w-o-m-y-n and w-i-m-m-i-n. Of course that was about common practice of lesbian separatists in the early 80s to spell the word women so that it was no part of the word men. Oh, and her cassette's title "Sex For Breakfast," may have told more about her than she thought, because in recent years she's been a frequent contributor of stories to compilation books of lesbian erotica.
And, one more cassette-only release was by the lesbian a cappella group Rhythm Method. I just love their updated version of the Shirelles song "I Met Him On A Sunday."
Rhythm Method - I met her on a Sunday (1994)
By the Rhythm Method, from their self-titled cassette from 1994, that was "I Met Her On A Sunday."
And here's a strange song, and after you hear it, I'll tell why I think so.
Goldenrods - lesbian nation (1993)
You just heard the song "Lesbian Nation," by the Goldenrods, from 1993. I got this song on a 45 rpm record. It was produced in San Francisco, and has a picture cover showing a woman with a guitar. The lead singer was Jenny Gunston. Now what I think is strange is that despite Jenny asking her sisters to get together, she was the only woman on the record. The song was written by a man, Barry Hall, who played lead guitar. All of the band members were men, the record was produced by a man, and it wasn't even Jenny's photo on the cover. They used a model for that. Do you see their credibility points slipping rapidly away?
July 2009 Update: I received the following email from Barry Hall, who I mentioned above, who set me, er, straight...:)
wrote the song after an experience I had at the Alameda Gun Club
Holly Near / Cris Williamson / Margie Adam QMH promo
This is a good time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Sunday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude. Also, I invite you to check out my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com where you can view the playlist and see photos of the artists and recordings, and listen to the show anytime.
Feature Interview: Wishing Chair
My special feature interview for tonight is with Kiya Heartwood and Miriam Davidson, who comprise the duo called Wishing Chair. They've released four albums since 1996, and I think they just get better and better. I'm especially impressed with how well the albums are produced, and they do that themselves in their own studio out in the country, in a town of less than 600 people, called Stamping Ground, in the bluegrass region of northern Kentucky.
Let's start off with your names and the name of your CD.
Hi, my name is Kiya Heartwood. I'm Miriam Davidson, we're called Wishing Chair, and our latest CD is called "Crow."
How would you describe your CD and musical style to someone who hasn't heard it?
Our CD and musical style. I guess, I guess...we call ourselves folk musicians, and the music is folk oriented, but it's a lot more. There's a lot of pop influences and rock and we like all kinds of music. We write the songs in the style that the song calls for mostly.
To give the listeners a taste of their style, I want to play just a little bit of the title song from their third album, "The Ghost of Will Harbut." It's one of their most acclaimed songs. In it the singer meets a ghost and she tries, regretfully, to explain what modern man has done to the beautiful Kentucky horse country. I'll let Kiya tell the rest.
Will Harbut was a groom and his job was to take care of the famous race horse "Man of War." "Man of War" was probably as famous as Babe Ruth in the 20's and 30's. Will Harbut is sort of the symbol for a lifestyle that's been present here in the Kentucky area for 200 years. It's just a way of life, and there's been a lot of irresponsible development in our area, and that's kind of what the song's about, it's addressing that issue.
"Ghost of Will Harbut"
That was part of the song "The Ghost of Will Harbut." Who is your audience?
Our audience is real eclectic. We appeal to the gay-lesbi audience of course, because we're out, but we run the gamut, you know. Yeah, I don't think it's our job to decide who listens to us. It's our job to just express ourselves and our situation as best we can, and let the audience sort of sort itself out.
Is it important for you to be out as musicians?
I think it's still very important to be an out musician. As long as it's an issue in our society then we need artists who are willing to be themselves fully, and being out and being proud is very important for creating a space that's safe for everyone to be themselves.
Please tell us about why you named yourselves Wishing Chair.
The name of the band comes from me being in the living room of a friend of mine named Peter O'Hanlon, who had this postcard. And I picked up the postcard, and I thought it was two Navaho women, sitting on a rock in the desert. But he told me, no, that it was two traveler women, two gypsy women, sitting at a rock, and the postcard said "travelers at the Wishing Chair," and I just thought that was the best band name. And Wishing Chair, evidently when you sit there you make a wish, and your dreams come true, which is an excellent metaphor for this band.
What gay and lesbian artists do you most admire?
Oh, there's so many gay and lesbian artists that we admire. Elton John comes to mind, Jamie Anderson, Laura Love, Holly Near, gosh, we couldn't possible stop the list, um but we're gonna stop the list.
I want to ask about a few of your songs and I want to start with your first CD "Singing With the Red Wolves," from 1996. Please tell us about the song, "Sometimes."
"Sometimes" is another "gosh, we're poor but I love you" kind of songs. We have a lot of those, I think. Yes, we're rich in love and art, not necessarily money so that sometimes becomes a theme in many of these folk songs.
Okay, on to your second album, "Undisputed Country," from 1998. I've picked the song "You're The One." Can you tell us a little about it?
"You're The One" and "She's Everything" are kind of tied together, you know, I'm severely in love and tend to have to write a love song for every CD. "You're The One" is exactly that, she's the one.
"You're The One"
And now finally to your latest CD, called "Crow." I'm a co-producer of AudioFile on This Way Out, and we featured it last April, and thought it was good enough that we named it one of the Best of 2002, on our year-end show. From that album, please tell us about the song "Breathe."
"Breathe" is late-night truck stop, three o'clock in the morning, getting coffee, having a big realization, which sometimes happens when you've been the car long enough to think you're having one. Yeah, it's just feeling really connected to everyone.
And I think my favorite song from the album might be "Ordinary Day"
"Ordinary Day" was inspired by a trip in Texas that reminded me of a good friend's ranch in Oklahoma, and growing up in Oklahoma and forty-nining, which is basically banging on car hoods by the creek late at night. And it's got one of the first folk rap. Oh, I don't know, I think Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie beat us to that deal.
Of what songs that you've written are you the most proud, and why?
Of all the songs I've written, the ones I'm most proud of are the ones that help other people. Here where we live in Kentucky the song "The Ghost of Will Harbut" has raised a lot of dialog about land issues and protecting our culture and way of life, and I'm real proud of that. We get lots of letters from people about some of the more personal songs. On the new CD "Copernicus" gets a lot of talk from people who had a similar kind of growing up. You know, when somebody uses one of the love songs in a commitment ceremony, or says that's their song, you know that always means a lot.
Can you tell me anything else that would give the listeners an idea of who you are, who are the artists behind the music?
I think that we are a complex mix of popular music and traditional music. In that we both feel really strongly that in the folk ideal of being a cultural worker in that we feel a responsibility that as artists we are supposed to speak the truth to the best of our ability, and artistically express what happens to us in the personal, because that's political as well. And I think that if you understand that, then our music makes a lot more sense. And then otherwise, the punk, the punk in me thinks that you should to be able to write any kind of music that you want, and you have to work with what you've got. So, I've got this severe Kentucky Oklahoma triple hillbilly thing going on, but I was also raised in the 60s and there is that naïve believe that music can really make change. And I think it really can. The biggest thing to me about being a gay and lesbian artist is that I come from a long line, there's miles of people before and miles coming after, and we're at this real nice crossroads area where we can stand up and show our influences, and that we're not limited to only being influenced by other gay and lesbian artists, and that we're complicate and interesting people, and that the future looks bright.
In a lot of interviews I usually ask the artists to do a show ID for me, and they usually have fun with it, and sometimes instead of editing out the false starts, I think it's more fun to let you hear the whole thing.
This is Kiya Heartwood, and I'm Miriam Davidson of Wishing Chair, and you're listing to Queer Music Heritage on KPFT in Houston.
I'm going to close the show with another of my favorite songs by Wishing Chair, from their latest album, "Crow." . But before we hear the song, I want to thank you all for tuning into the show, and I want to thank Kiya Heartwood and Miriam Davidson of Wishing Chair for their interview. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And again, my website, with information about all the songs you've heard is logically enough at www.queermusicheritage.com. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the fourth Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage.
Okay, back to Wishing Chair. One of their most lyrically gay songs is "She's Everything," Can you please tell us about it?
Well, "She's Everything" is dedicated to Miriam's niece, Caitlin, but, you know, it's a love song, and, hmmm, I tried to make the most pop, out song I could possible do so it could get out to the most people.
"She's Everything" (2002)
Davidson and Kiya Heartwood of Wishing Chair