Singer, Songwriter slash Mom
Regular Posts Tagged ‘Rock and Roll’
2nd Jun 2009 Posted in: Road Diaries 2
Desert Rat Tour Part Deux

If you haven’t read Part One, read it first! 

Thank you to everyone who emailed about Part One.  Welcome back to Part Two of the Tale of the Desert Rat Tour! Danny B. Harvey (resident Rock God), Sasha Heslip (Cinderblock Bookshelves’ producer and tech diva) and I have left the mountains of Colorado and are having lunch in Flagstaff before heading into the Arizona desert.  But before I continue our tale, let me digress briefly to discuss the young woman across the street from our restaurant who was singing folk songs in a park as part of some kind of weekend street fair.

She had a high, earnest, Sheryl Crow-esque voice, lots of energy and good guitar chops. There were a few people listening as they sat in the sun, and others casting a glance her way as they strolled by.

I bet she applied for this showcase and was chosen by some panel to round out the music portion of their arts weekend, and I feel equally confident that she wasn’t paid.  “But!” the promoters likely said, “it’ll be great exposure.”

As my friend Andrew Hardin likes to say: “You can die from exposure.” (more…)

29th Nov 2007 Posted in: Blog, Momhood Comments Off on Nana, RIP

Local musician Phyllis Kathryn ‘Kae’ Herron dies

Big band singer, songwriter, formed the Melodears in 1977

By Alicia Doyle
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

After a lifetime rich with her musical talent and fun-loving spirit, Phyllis Kathryn “Kae” Herron died Nov. 12 at her Ventura home, her family said. She was 90.

“She was a very small person, only 4 feet 10 inches tall when she reached 90 years old, but she had a mighty spirit,” said her daughter Robbie Frandsen of Los Angeles. “She remained funny, kind, gracious and humble to her very last day.”

Born April 29, 1917, in Vallejo, Herron (nee Brown) spent her teens and early 20s singing with big bands in the San Francisco Bay Area, most notably the Horace Heidt Orchestra.

Hollywood Clowns was start

In 1939, she married Bob Herron, a naval officer, and they had two daughters, Melody and Robyn. Kae and Bob, now 96, would have celebrated their 68th anniversary this year. There are two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“Kae gave birth to her first child at the naval base in Honolulu, having boarded Pan Am’s first commercial flight after World War II and traveled to Hawaii to be with her husband when she had the baby,” said Rain Perry, Herron’s granddaughter. “There was no family housing yet at Pearl Harbor, so Bob had to make a special request.”

The Herron family moved quite a bit throughout the West Coast and East in support of Bob’s career as a salesman of tabulating machines for IBM.

In the late ’60s, they settled in the San Fernando Valley, where Kae Herron began performing with a group led by Jerry Patterson called the Hollywood Clowns. They went on to perform as a duo at dozens of birthday parties, from Pacific Palisades to East Los Angeles.

Wrote more than 100 songs

After her husband retired from IBM, the couple moved to Ventura Marina Mobile Home Park in 1974 and Kae joined the musical variety group The Rhythmettes as a pianist.

“When Kae joined the Rhythmettes, they were a kazoo band,” said Perry, an Ojai resident and award-winning singer-songwriter in her own right. “My grandma wanted to do something more interesting, so she formed the Melodears in 1977.”

Some of the members had musical experience, some none at all, but it didn’t matter to Herron.

“They just needed enthusiasm and a good work ethic,” Perry said, adding that her grandmother wrote sophisticated musical arrangements for vocal quartets, violin trios, melodicas and kazoos. Over the years, the Melodears performed at events and community centers, nursing homes and private parties throughout Ventura County.

“She was always going out and getting paying jobs for them; they called her the benevolent dictator,” Frandsen said. “She did all the arrangements, wrote everything out by hand on sheet music. … She had perfect pitch and a beautiful voice. She wrote over 100 songs.”

In the late 1970s, Kae and Bob Herron wrote “San Buenaventura.” The tune turned out to be very popular with Kae Herron’s audiences, and for many years she performed the song at every Melodears concert, Frandsen said.

“In the mid-1980s, my mom professionally recorded the song and released it on cassette. … She’s sold numerous copies to friends and fans,” she said. “Almost no Melodears concert would go by without a request for this song.”

An excellent tap-dancer

Mickey Knapp of Camarillo met Herron 16 years ago when she joined the Melodears.

“She had the most brilliant mind. … She wrote music and played the organ, barely touching the pedals because she was so little,” recalled Knapp, 81. “She was a remarkable woman.”

In the late ’70s, Herron performed for the public during weekly lunchtime concerts on the Carillon in City Hall, with hourlong performances typically based on a theme, like Christmas, weather or girls’ names.

From Perry’s perspective as a singer-songwriter, her grandmother has been a fundamental influence.

“I learned how to work a crowd, how to wrap a mic cable, how to compose a set list that flows, to be professional yet always gracious,” Perry said. “When I needed to borrow some equipment, I could call my grandmother. Also, she always kept an open mind when it came to music, never judging any new trend.”

Herron also was an excellent tap-dancer throughout her life and through her 90s, Frandsen said.

“She taught a good friend who was only 80 to tap, and the two of them danced together twice a week for fun,” Frandsen said.

In August, Herron performed a song at her mobile home park’s weekly happy hour.

“Without even using the stairs leading to the stage floor, she simply stepped up onto the stage,” recalled Frandsen, adding that her mother took up weight training in 1998 after learning that resistance training reverses osteoporosis and can rebuild bone.

“When her friends asked in amazement how she was able to do this at age 90, my mother said, I’m in weight training,’ ” Frandsen recalled.

“She continued lifting three times a week without fail, performing both upper and lower body strengthening exercises. In 2006, Kae’s bone density was that of a 20-year-old.”

Looking back on her mother’s optimism and zest for life, Frandsen said her legacy will live on.

“When she moved to the retirement community, she saw her life expanding, not shrinking,” Frandsen said.

“Her community — especially older people — were really inspired by the fact that she was always doing something new.”

A memorial service for Kae Herron is scheduled at 11 a.m. Dec. 8 at Ventura Marina Mobile Home Park, 1215 Anchors Way, in the main clubhouse. Lunch will follow.

To RSVP, call Herron’s daughter Robbie at 818-209-8926.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to Hermon Community Church, 5718 Monterey Road, Los Angeles 90042. (Designate the Benevolent Fund.)

[twitter style=”vertical” float=”left”] [fbshare type=”button”]

26th Jun 2007 Posted in: Blog, Momhood Comments Off on Cinderblock Bookshelves staged reading

Two great nights last week of staged readings of my play, Cinderblock Bookshelves with Danny B. Harvey.

I think I’m way too soccer-mom-esque to work with cool people like Danny, but doing a play is an artistic experience that’s new and different for a guitar player. So, yay.

New album coming AND a tour. Want to be my street team leader? I’m looking for small theaters – 50-99 seats – that would like to have a one- or two-night stand of a one-woman play. Mid-week is fine. If you know of anything like that in your neck of the woods, I’d sure love to hear about it!


27th Apr 2007 Posted in: Blog, Momhood Comments Off on So…never mind about SXSW. Let’s talk about Disneyland!

My last post was March 21st, and I promised lots of SXSW lowdown. But does anyone care anymore about my sharp cultural observations (as if they did before)? I want to live in the now.


Here are teeniest little ducks that my daughter Stella spotted in the “ocean” at Disney’s California Adventure. They were literally the size of a walnut.

Here’s a picture of the choir at the recording session for Julie Christensen’s killer song “Rapture Index=0,” from her new album. What a rockin’ song, and it’s going to be a great, very political album.

And, finally, here’s a group shot of the fabulous “Repeat Offenders: Dirty Girls Come Clean” show at Theater 150.

14th Mar 2007 Posted in: Blog Comments Off on Patti Smith on being inducted into the Hall of Fame

from Patti Smith:

Op-Ed Contributor
Ain’t It Strange?
Published: March 12, 2007

ON a cold morning in 1955, walking to Sunday school, I was drawn to the voice of Little Richard wailing “Tutti Frutti” from the interior of a local boy’s makeshift clubhouse. So powerful was the connection that I let go of my mother’s hand.

Rock ’n’ roll. It drew me from my path to a sea of possibilities. It sheltered and shattered me, from the end of childhood through a painful adolescence. I had my first altercation with my father when the Rolling Stones made their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Rock ’n’ roll was mine to defend. It strengthened my hand and gave me a sense of tribe as I boarded a bus from South Jersey to freedom in 1967.

Rock ’n’ roll, at that time, was a fusion of intimacies. Repression bloomed into rapture like raging weeds shooting through cracks in the cement. Our music provided a sense of communal activism. Our artists provoked our ascension into awareness as we ran amok in a frenzied state of grace.

My late husband, Fred Sonic Smith, then of Detroit’s MC5, was a part of the brotherhood instrumental in forging a revolution: seeking to save the world with love and the electric guitar. He created aural autonomy yet did not have the constitution to survive all the complexities of existence.

Before he died, in the winter of 1994, he counseled me to continue working. He believed that one day I would be recognized for my efforts and though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was bestowed — gracefully — in his name.

Today I will join R.E.M., the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions. Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered? Am I a worthy recipient?

I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him — the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honors. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who has loved rock ’n’ roll and crawled from the ranks to the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic landscape of the new guard.

Because its members will be the guardians of our cultural voice. The Internet is their CBGB. Their territory is global. They will dictate how they want to create and disseminate their work. They will, in time, make breathless changes in our political process. They have the technology to unite and create a new party, to be vigilant in their choice of candidates, unfettered by corporate pressure. Their potential power to form and reform is unprecedented.

Human history abounds with idealistic movements that rise, then fall in disarray. The children of light. The journey to the East. The summer of love. The season of grunge. But just as we seem to repeat our follies, we also abide.

Rock ’n’ roll drew me from my mother’s hand and led me to experience. In the end it was my neighbors who put everything in perspective. An approving nod from the old Italian woman who sells me pasta. A high five from the postman. An embrace from the notary and his wife. And a shout from the sanitation man driving down my street: “Hey, Patti, Hall of Fame. One for us.”

I just smiled, and I noticed I was proud. One for the neighborhood. My parents. My band. One for Fred. And anybody else who wants to come along.