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Goldie & the Gingerbreads

Goldie & the Gingerbreads was an American female rock band from 1962 to 1967. They were the first all-female rock band signed to a major record label. Whereas most female bands were ignored by the big record labels and rarely attracted live audiences, the quartet of Ginger Bianco, Margo Lewis, Carol MacDonald and Genya Ravan (also known as Goldie) were among the first to break into a domain dominated by men. They were signed to Decca in 1963 and to Atlantic in 1964

Early days

In 1962 Genya Ravan - the then lead-singer of Richard Perry's band The Escorts- met Ginger Panabianco in a New York club. Ginger was on stage, performing as the drummer for one of Perry's friends. The discovery of a female drummer inspired in Genya Ravan the idea of an all-female rock band. The name of the would-be band was decided upon rapidly: Goldie was the name by which Ravan's mother chose to call her after their arrival in the United States from post-war Poland, while gingerbread was a play on Ginger's name.

Richard Perry and the other members of The Escorts were college students. When the summer concert season ended, Genya and Ginger began to look for a pianist and soon recruited Carol O’ Grady. Finding a female guitarist turned out to be much harder. Various ad-hoc recruits filled in as and when required: when they accompanied Chubby Checker on his 1962 concert tour of West Germany and Switzerland, they had to perform without any guitar cover at all. The following year, Goldie and the Gingerbreads were temporarily enhanced by a bassist, Carol O’Grady was replaced by Margo Lewis, and guitarist and backing vocalist Carol MacDonald joined as the fourth permanent band member.

The Mods and Rockers’ Ball 1964

In 1964 fashion photographer and director Jerry Schatzberg threw a party for the Warhol Superstar Baby Jane Holzer that was later referred to by writer Tom Wolfe as "the Mods and Rockers ball, the party of the year." Goldie and the Gingerbreads were booked to provide the musical entertainment and impressed the assembled attendees with both their music and their inimitable presence. Among the guests at this fashionable and well-attended event were The Rolling Stones and Ahmet Ertegün, the chairman of Atlantic Records, who promptly signed them to the label.

The Gingerbreads in Europe

Later in 1964, the band met Eric Burdon and The Animals, whose manager contracted the Gingerbreads for a tour in England. These standard group tours were arranged by record companies to showcase their roster of talent and the Gingerbreads were one of up to six bands on the tour, performing on the same bill night after night in small towns. In Britain, they toured with The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Kinks, among others.

Troubles with British working visa requirements led to the band performing dates in West Germany (where many UK and US troops were then stationed as part of the NATO defences) at venues including the Star-Club in Hamburg while they waited for their British work permits to come through.

A subsequent appearance in Paris at the Olympia earned Goldie & The Gingerbreads a favourable introduction to the French music scene, despite technical difficulties that arose during the performance.

The politics of popular music

Throughout the early 1960s, when Goldie and the Gingerbreads were touring extensively throughout North America, club and venue promoters were not so much interested in their music as in the excitement that an all-female musical group caused. Another issue of contention and frustration was through the practice then widespread throughout the United States of separate radio stations for white music - who would not accept the Gingerbreads’ black music - whilst their counterpart black broadcast media were unable to feature white artists. Goldie and the Gingerbreads did have one single, "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", that reached #25 on the British charts in 1965. Although the single was also released in the United States, a recording of the same song by the heavily promoted Herman's Hermits was released with great fanfare just two weeks prior to the Gingerbreads' release, thus fatally undermining the Gingerbreads' chances for their first hit single in the U.S.

The end

Over the course of 1967 and 1968, Goldie and the Gingerbreads gradually broke up. They returned to the United States in an attempt to garner success, but failed. Genya Ravan's strong personality and forceful leadership of the band has been cited as a major factor in the band's split. Frustration due to making little profit from their record releases may also have been an issue.

Future careers

Lewis, MacDonald and O'Grady, along with Suzi Ghezzi, later formed the nucleus of Jazz-Fusion band Isis. Ravan went on to release several solo albums, and later founded the jazz fusion band Ten Wheel Drive. Ravan's memoirs, entitled Lollipop Lounge: Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee, were published in 2004 by Billboard Books.

1997 reunion

On November 13, 1997, the Gingerbreads performed once more to mark their 30th anniversary and to commemorate the release of The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock.

Touchstone Award

On February 3, 1998, Goldie and The Gingerbreads were honored with the Touchstone Award for Women in Music. This distinction is given to women who "have the courage and inspiration to make a difference in the music industry and whose work has set new standards.

Line-up

Although several other musicians played with Goldie & the Gingerbreads over the years, permanent members were:

  • Genya Ravan - vocals, harmonica
  • Ginger Bianco - percussion
  • Margo Lewis - organ
  • Carol MacDonald (joined 1963) - guitar and background-vocals - MacDonald died on March 12, 2007.

Discography

  • Skinny Vinnie / Chew Chew Fee Fi Fum - 1964 ''SPOKANE 45-4005
  • That's Why I Love You / What Kind of Man Are You - 1965 ATCO 45-6354
  • Can't You Hear My Heartbeat / Little Boy - 1965 DECCA 12070
  • That's Why I Love You / The Skip - 1965 DECCA 12126
  • Sailor Boy / Please Please - 1966 DECCA 12199
  • Think About The Good Times / Please Please - 1966 ATCO 45-6427
  • Walking in Different Circles / Song of the Moon - 1967 ATCO 45-6475
  • Think About the Good Times - FONTANA 693

External links

Footnotes

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