No Teenage Wasteland

Remembering the ‘80s, when the Valley was the epicenter of the rock club scene

When I was 10 and fancied myself a blossoming classical pianist, my parents took me to my first “rock” concert: Chicago at The Forum. It was crowded and hot. The air smelled strange. I wondered if it was marijuana. It scared me.

April was the first of us to get a driver’s license. This meant that at 15, I’d see my first real concert—sans parents—again at The Forum: Supertramp. This time I definitely smelled pot. It still frightened me, but I didn’t let April know.

It was packed … and loud—so loud that the music vibrated in my chest like a heartbeat. I was hooked. It was a 20-minute drive back to Calabasas and $1 for gas.

Clockwise from top left: Tom Petty with Del Shannon at the Country Club in Reseda; Rikki Rocket from the band Poison; crooner Jackson Browne at the Country Club. The B&W photos on the left are by Sal Guitarez, the official photographer for the Country Club back in the day.

From then on, Sunday mornings brought a race to the Los Angeles Times Calendar section. Who was coming to The Forum? What about The Palomino Club in North Hollywood and Wolf & Rismiller’s Country Club in Reseda? At the time, those two were considered some of the best live clubs not just in LA but in the country. I wasn’t old enough to go. I didn’t have the money but still … Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Emmylou Harris—so many great acts just miles from my house.

Thankfully, there was disco—and the Valley was the zenith of teen discothèques, where you had to show ID to prove you were under 18.

The Calabasas High School crew hit The Ozone for dancing, sweating and watching—i.e. ascertaining who was doing what with whom. There I was, in spandex and red platforms, 2 inches taller than anyone else (my height being an attribute that generally left me standing on the sidelines or dancing with a girl). But after a car struck the captain of the football team in the parking lot, leaving him a quadriplegic, we never went back; too young for the tragic indoctrination into the real world outside our bubble.

We moved to Phazes in Canoga Park, its New Wave music pulling teens from the Westside fave, The Odyssey. I was happy to stay local. With its rumors of sex in the parking lot, the Odyssey was intimidating.

The Tapestry in Northridge was home to the avant-garde. Guys danced with guys and girls kissed girls—an androgynous clump of confused hormones. I wore fishnets with tight skirts, lace gloves and shellac-sprayed hair. The kids took drugs. I just wanted to look like Madonna.

If you were edgy, there was the Sugar Shack, the epicenter of teen nightclubs where the wild ones hung … and lots of adults. Rumors of KROQ’s celebrity deejay Rodney Bingenheimer’s presence continuously floated, but I never saw him. I didn’t know what he looked like, but decked in black velvet scrunchie and Krystle Carrington-inspired shoulder pads, I felt cool anyhow.

Then came the magical summer between high school and college, a holding pattern until the rest of my life began, unsure if my glass was half empty or half full, but with the freedom to explore. We started venturing “over the hill” to the ultimate club scene: The Starwood, Gazzarri’s, The Whisky, The Roxy and The Rainbow—a bar where we’d eat lousy food, hoping to spot a rock star. Rumor had it Rodney hung out there, too.

I’d eventually move to West Hollywood, get a music degree from UCLA and land at Epic Records. And so, the rest of my life began. Disco went away, so did New Wave, Glam and Metal. They’d all come back and leave again. The constant waves and changing tides of art and style were a metaphor for my life, as my love for live music rolled in and out through marriage, childbirth, divorce and all that came after. It wasn’t until the late ‘80s that I’d finally make it to the Palomino for a Long Riders’ show.

Changing demographics eventually stopped drawing big acts here. The Country Club closed in 1995; the Palomino soon after. Its neon sign now hangs in the Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth.

Clockwise from top left: Wolf & Rissmillers Country Club in Reseda; James Brown at the Country Club in 1981; Poison’s Brett Michaels at The Whiskey; The Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip.

I finally did see Rodney Bingenheimer. He was small—from age, stature or perhaps just the weight of his big, burgundy velvet coat.

The other day I drove past the spot on Lankershim where the Palomino once stood—home now to a nondescript banquet facility. I could see ghosts of so many young me’s, in my Jordache jeans, heart beating to the music, dreaming of things that ultimately would never be. But now who cares? I’m lucky just to have been a music-loving teen growing up in the Valley.

Jazz Legend Sheila Jordan Forever True to Her Love

 

Jazz Legend and Solo Mom Sheila Jordan Stays True to Her Passion

 Charlie Parker called her the singer with a million dollar ears

Who is Sheila Jordan?

Born to a teenaged mother and raised in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, Sheila Jordan grew to become one of the world’s greatest jazz singers—and a living legend.

Growing up in abject poverty amid familial alcoholism, bouncing from home to home, and facing all forms of abandonment and abuse, Jordan still managed to love those who loved her to the best of their abilities. Her innate optimism and whimsical spirit would carry her through the toughest of times.

Jordan meets her musical mentor, Charlie Parker

It was her high-school music teacher who changed Jordan’s life, spying her gift of voice and encouraging her to sing in the school musical. Her newfound confidence served her well after her alcoholic mother whisked her away to Detroit, where Jordan discovered bebop; met her musical mentor, Charlie Parker; and discovered her reason for being: jazz, through which Jordan found the strength and will to survive.

In her Detroit years, while still a teenager, Jordan lived the “jazz life,” sneaking into clubs, making music, and singing for Charlie Parker whenever he was in town. But as a young white woman with black friends, living in a male-dominated 1940s world, Jordan faced prejudice, scrutiny, and hostility on all fronts.

A troubled marriage and birth of a daughter

In the early ’50s, she moved to New York to be closer to Parker and his music. She married his keyboard player, Duke Jordan, and found herself facing the challenges of being in a mixed-race marriage in a still-racist New York City – married to an emotionally abusive heroin addict, who’d be gone for days with other women.

During that period, Jordan became pregnant with her daughter, Tracey. Duke left for good, and Jordan found emotional support from her mixed bag of friends—mostly artists and musicians—including Charlie Parker, who tragically passed away just a few months before Tracey’s birth.

On September 27, 1955, Jordan took a taxi to the hospital and had her baby.

A happy ending

She managed to take a job two nights a week at Page Three, a bar in Greenwich Village, while keeping her office day job and caring for her daughter. In spite of her ultimate success as a singer, Jordan held on to this office job for 30 years because she feared poverty. But she always aspired to sing full time – so it was a blessing in disguise when, at 58 years old, Jordan was laid off.

With her daughter grown, and facing financial insecurity, Jordan finally realized her dream of becoming a full-time jazz singer as well as a mentor and an educator. And with this new adventure she found happiness, friendship, a house in the woods, peace of mind, and music—lots of music.

—————-

Q: Do you realize how remarkable your story is?

A: No, I don’t.

Q: It’s an important story, especially for single moms, because many give up on their creative dreams. You didn’t. The fact that you didn’t hit your stride until your 50s is fantastic.

A: I never gave up. I always knew I would do music until I die. Whether I was going out and singing sessions, or whatever, I wasn’t thinking in terms of money or being paid or supporting myself. What’s happened since I got laid off from my job at my advertising agency at 58—I’ve done nothing but work. It’s amazing!

Q: How did you manage day to day when Tracey was a baby?

A: I had different people babysit. I only had to work half a day. I made enough to pay my rent and buy food. I just got by, but it was OK.

Q: During that time, you got a job singing.

A: I worked at the Page Three two nights a week and that kept the need to sing going. I had a lot of emotion and a lot of feelings about a lot of things. I was involved in a lot of very sick relationships. A lot of the men I was with would live with me, and I would be supporting them because they wouldn’t be paying my rent.

Q: Were they jazz musicians?

A: The only jazz musician I was involved with was Duke Jordan. But he was never there for us. I was legally married, but he was a junkie, and he needed to be anywhere he could get his fix.

I kept thinking he’d get better, but he didn’t. He would babysit for me. One day I came home and Tracey was alone. He’d gone out to get his fix. I realized this guy had been going out all the time and leaving this baby alone! Finally he just disappeared, and that was it.

Q: Are you single now?

A: Oh, God, yes! I had a couple of nice boyfriends, but the problem with me was that I was so used to the sick ones that the nice ones were boring.

I found a way to do music without losing the respect and love of my daughter. When I worked a couple nights a week, but by the time I paid the babysitter and cab fare home, I had nothing left of the money from the gig. It didn’t matter because I was able to fulfill this musical feeling, to nourish my music. And that was payment.

What I needed in my life to survive was my daughter, a roof over my head, food to eat, a few good friends, and the music.

Q: Did your status in your community shift when you became a single mom?

A: No. I was always in the jazz community, the art community, so all my friends were painters or dancers or musicians. They were all cool. I grew up in the bohemian age.

Q: Were you concerned being a solo mom would hinder your music career?

A: I never even thought about it because I was never thinking career. I did the music because I had been doing music since I was born. I had a very unhappy childhood, and the only way I got through life was through singing.

Singing is an extension of my body, my mind, my soul, what I eat, the way I eat, the way I sleep, the way I sing. I never thought about it as a career—never thought about it one way or another. As long as I could sing somewhere, I was cool.

So I was shocked when I recorded—and now, getting all these incredible awards. I’m shocked! Especially since I never hounded people, “Give me a record date,” “Will you be my agent?” It just happened because I love the music.

Q: Has music helped you as a solo mom? Has being a solo mom helped your art?

A: When I recorded my first album, I did “Dat Dere” because it was so much like my daughter. She was little at the time. Even today there are very few times that I don’t include it in the set because it’s Tracey. My music is all about life; it’s all a part of it, the good and the bad, who I am. Whatever I’m living, however I’m living—sad or happy—it’s all part of it because it’s an extension of my feelings and my life.

Q: What advice would you give a someone trying to break into music?

A: Don’t give up. Don’t let anything keep you from doing the one thing you love besides your child—your child and your art. Keeping it in your life is very important. You can express your feelings through your art, and if that’s cut off, then there’s a certain part of your feelings that you aren’t able to let go . . . and that’s “stuff.”

If it’s music, go find sessions. They’ve got singers’ nights where you can sit in. Even if it means having a little house concert where you can sing and play—keep it alive.

 

For more information on Sheila Jordan, visit sheilajordanjazz.com and read Ellen Johnson’s biography Jazz Child: A Portrait of Sheila Jordan (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014).

Watch Jordan perform, and see why Charlie Parker often introduced her as “the singer with the million dollar ears.”

 

Claudia Brant: My Kids Know I’m Doing My Best

An interview with Latin Grammy Award Winner and Solo Mom, Claudia Brant

Argentinean born Claudia Brant is an internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter, and producer, who at 46 has already worked with scores of music greats including Ricky Martin, Josh Groban, and Jennifer Lopez. She, along with cowriters Luis Fonsi and Gen Reuben, won the 2009 Latin Grammy for Song of the Year for “Aqui Estoy Yo,” and she recently won ASCAP’s 2015 Latin Music Award for Songwriter of the Year.

Proficient in all music genres, Brant got her first record deal at age 19. At 29 she moved to Los Angeles to take her career to the next level. After just three months, she had five offers. Three years later, she got married. Three years after that, she had twins, Nina and Luca, now 11 years old.

She shared about her life, career, and motherhood with ESME’s Kathleen Laccinole.

How did you become a Solo Mom?

Six years ago I got divorced and my ex-husband moved to Houston. So I thought, What should I do? Should I go back to Argentina? There was a moment I thought I could not handle it. But at the end of the day, I realized it was not going to be such a big change. I was already handling so much, and I like multitasking.

In the beginning it was hard. If I don’t have a session, then I don’t write songs, and if I don’t write songs, then I don’t get paid. But between my friends and some great babysitters I somehow figured it out. My kids are troopers. They spend a lot of time in the studio with me because they know how much I love my job. I’m happy I decided to stay.

You’re being a good role model.

I hope so. I try to bring them into my world as much as I am in theirs so they can see that I love what I do. I think when they pick a career they will make sure it’s something they really like.

Has having kids full-time posed any detriment to your career?

On the contrary, my career has been great. The only thing that affects my work is if someone wants me to go on a writing trip tomorrow. That won’t work. I tell everyone, “I don’t have a problem going to NY but you need to tell me a month in advance so I can plan for my kids.”

How did you get into the music business?

I started writing songs at a young age. I had a traditional family so my parents sent me to university (for architecture). I tried to follow the mandate for a couple of years, but I quit because it was not for me. I was already singing commercials and writing music. I always had this dream: when I get old, I want to be writing songs. And that dream came true—so that’s what I do every day.

What are you working on now?

Gosh, like twenty-thousand projects: stuff for Interscope, Enrique Iglesias, some Sony stuff. Then in June I’m taking the kids to Europe for a month. In the summer I need time away so I can get the energy up to write more songs.

What are you most proud of as a Solo Mom?

I raise my children in a particular way where they don’t watch TV, they don’t have cell phones or iPads, and we travel a lot. My best investment is on traveling with my kids. They have already been to many countries and have seen a lot of things, and since they are not stuck on a computer, I feel proud that I did a pretty decent job raising them to be interesting characters.

Can you recommend resources for breaking into music?

Get in touch with a writers’ society (ASCAP or BMI). They help connect people to other people. Listen to as much music as possible. It is a matter of being in the right place at the right time and working hard. It took me 17 years to get where I am. Perseverance and effort.

Favorite Solo Mom parenting tip?

My children and I can talk about anything and everything. It makes it easier. They know I’m doing my best, and that’s the best I can do.


Photo Credit: Omar Guerra

Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.

 

Sue Drew, Music Publisher

Image Credit: Sue Drew

A Solo Mom finds success in the music industry

Born and raised in Southern California, University of Southern California graduate Sue Drew is the quintessential fresh-faced California girl. She’s also the poster child for solo motherhood. She’s successfully raised her daughter, Catherine Jones (15), while ascending the creative and corporate ladder in the über-competitive world of music—and she found her happy ending in the process.

Currently the general manager of creative and acquisitions at Kobalt Music Publishing, Drew is responsible for managing Kobalt’s growing roster by signing songwriters, acquiring catalogues, and finding creative opportunities, as well as pitching songs, facilitating collaborations, and exploring film and TV opportunities. Prior to this, Drew worked in artists and repertoire (A&R) for more than 20 years and held executive positions at Elektra Records, Chrysalis Records/EMI, and Reprise Records.

She met her current husband at a party celebrating her divorce from her daughter’s father.

She chatted with ESME about her work, being a mom, and finding joy.

What musicians are you excited about right now?

I just signed the Lionel Richie catalogue. That’s a big one. I’m excited about a young songwriter I’m developing named Jackson Morgan who is a tremendous top-liner. And I signed two bands that I think are amazing: The Punch Brothers and The Lone Bellow. Oh, and I signed Giorgio Moroder for his new album. Super fun.

Can you recommend any resources for Solo Moms wanting to get into the music industry?

The ASCAP Expo is an incredible resource. It’s a three-day conference that takes place in Los Angeles in April where they have songwriting panels, master sessions, and mentoring—an amazing experience. Take advantage of these opportunities to connect and learn. If you’re going to invest in a sitter, this would be the time.

When did you become a Solo Mom?

I was briefly married to a musician turned TV show-runner. We broke up around 2002 when Catherine was two, but it took many years for the divorce to be final.

Did you find that being a Solo Mom impacted your career?

Being a mom in general impacted my career. When I had my daughter, I quit working full time and started doing consulting. I had already been in the business for twenty years so I had that flexibility. I was able to work from home and take her to and from school, lessons, and playdates. In all honesty, I don’t know how much help I got from my husband to begin with, so it wasn’t that much different.

How are you managing now with a teenager?

It became more difficult when I went back to work full time. Catherine was nine, and I needed to hire someone to drive her around and stay with her until I got home from work. And that’s still the case because she’s not able to drive yet. In a pinch, [my husband] Jon will pick her up.

When you went from being married to being a Solo Mom, did you feel a shift in your community?

Yes, definitely. It was far more isolating for me during that time because I was living in Lake Tahoe for the first two to three years. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I didn’t have family nearby. So it was just me and a toddler. It was lonely. When I moved back to Los Angeles, my community became other single moms.

Has being a Solo Mom posed any detriment to furthering your career?

I manage it as best I can. I’ve been fortunate to work for people that have children and understand the obligation.

Was there a defining moment that drove home the realization that you were raising a child on your own?

The worst would have to be when we were robbed. I came home from picking Catherine up at camp and they were still in the house. They ran out the back. I truly didn’t know what to do or where to take her. She needed to spend the night somewhere. I had this feeling of, “Oh my goodness: I’m alone in this house with this seven-year-old girl and there were robbers just in it.” The capper was when I got my cable bill and they had ordered porn. One was called, “Hot Moms and their Sexy Daughters.” Can you believe it?!

What are you the most proud of as a Solo Mom?

I’m proud that my daughter is a very solid, consistent, easy-going, flexible, and wonderful person. Raising her is probably the most important thing I’ve done. And she is so far, so good.

What’s your favorite solo parenting tip?

I think letting her help me in the kitchen is a good thing to do because I’m a control freak and I like to do it all myself. But letting her be involved in things is my best tip—so she learns how to do things on her own and doesn’t need me to do everything for her.

E.G. Daily: A Winning Voice

Image via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

E.G. Daily, voice of Rugrats’ Tommy Pickles and participant on The Voice, shares her optimistic approach to work and solo parenting

E.G. Daily has starred in movies, topped the charts as a singer/songwriter, is the voice of Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, and has voiced other notable characters. In 2013, Daily sauntered onto the stage of The Voice and blew everyone away with her rendition of “Breathe,” joining Team Blake after the performance. Yet Daily’s greatest success is solo-mothering daughters Hunter (19) and Tyson (16). Seriously, how many kids can say their mom is a Powerpuff Girl?

Which career came first—singing or acting?

It’s really one career with all sorts of tentacles. It all goes back to my voice.

When I was young I’d make up pretend voices. And I loved to sing. I taught myself how to play the guitar so I could sing and write songs. I starred in the school musicals. Then right after high school, I started booking movies.

But no matter what I was doing, I was singing and developing my voice. My voice had been so developed as a singer, and my acting so developed as an actor, that the voice-over made sense. It contorted everything together into animation, radio, TV, and commercials.

How did you land in the voice-over business?

I was doing a musical about female wrestlers. The play involved my character’s voice at different ages. Jeff Danis saw me at a performance and told me I should pursue voice-over. He’s still my agent to this day.

But I did not do the play for any reason other than I wanted to be singing. My motives were clean. And I ended up getting all these accolades, getting a record deal, breaking into voice-over. All these great things happened because I did something solely because I loved it. I talk about this in my seminars.

When and how did you become a Solo Mom?

I always had a feeling I would be a single mom. There was too much pressure to meet guys. At 32 I decided to do it myself. I made the plan with my doctor. The pressure was off. Then I went to a barbecue, met this guy, and five weeks later got married in Vegas. I got knocked up on my wedding night. Completely unplanned!

I loved him. We had two kids. But he had a problem with drugs—so I ultimately left him. I knew it wasn’t healthy for the kids and me. Years later he got sober, and over time we learned to care about each other. Now he’s my best friend. It was painful at first, but I feel blessed that I got way more from the universe than I’d asked.

How did you manage being in a creative field while solo parenting?

I could do voice-over and bring the babies with me. I literally nursed while I was working. If I was working remotely, I could have a baby on the boob and they never knew. I did not sacrifice anything to take care of my kids.

Was there a defining moment that drove home you were raising kids alone?

My youngest had baby asthma. I’d have to grab both babies, throw them in the car, and rush to the hospital. I cried all the time because I never slept. I’d have one baby on the boob and the other on a nebulizer, and I would move my arms around like an octopus, grabbing this and that. That’s when I decided to ask for help. My family was amazing. If I had $80, I’d hire someone. Peace at any cost.

Can you recommend resources for women trying to break into voice-over or music?

My voice-over seminar is great and teaches a spiritual approach. As for singing, if you love it, sing! Take lessons. Do open mics. Bigger things will start happening.

What are you most proud of as a Solo Mom?

I’m proud of the work I’ve done on myself so I could be the parent I wanted for my girls. I didn’t follow the pattern and I think my kids are amazing because of it. I taught them to believe that if life alters things, it’s for the better. It’s not happening to you, it’s happening for you. There are no rules—it’s only what is beautiful and fantastic. Having a miserable married couple as parents is not fantastic, as opposed to pure mama love. I want my kids to not just tolerate—but to lean into all joy.

What’s your favorite single-parenting tip?

Write little notes with beautiful affirmations. Color them up and sparkle them out and put them in their lunch box and backpacks. “You’re beautiful.” “You are magical.” “You are everything I could have ever dreamed I’d want for a kid.”

Music-Publishing Powerhouse, Wende Crowley, Talks About Her Experience in the Industry

Photo Credit: Wende Crowley

Kathleen Laccinole interviews Wende Crowley, Senior Vice President of Film and TV at Sony/ATV Music, about being a Solo Mom in the music business

Music-publishing powerhouse, Wende Crowley works at Sony/ATV Music—the company that controls copyrights for more than two million of our favorite songs by artists such as The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga, to name a few. She is a Solo Mom with the dream job of music supervisor—the person who places pop music in film, television, and video games. Her credits include Annie, Easy A, Freaks and Geeks, and Arrested Development, among others.

Q: How did you get into the music business?

A: I drove cross-country from Boston to Los Angeles two days after graduating college to do an internship at Sony Records. After my internship ended, I got a job working in promotions and marketing for Nederlander Concerts and the Greek Theatre—but my dream was to become a music supervisor. There was an ad in the Hollywood Reporter as an assistant to a music supervisor. I applied and actually got the job!

Q: When and how did you become a Solo Mom?

A: I became a single mom in 2010. My ex and I decided it was time to end the marriage, but, luckily, we have remained great friends and coparents.

Q: Did being a Solo Mom impact your career in the music business?

A: Time management became a challenge. I became aware of how precious my time is with my son. It’s a constant balancing act between work and family life.

Q: How do you manage?

A: I evaluate and separate the work events I have to attend and plan accordingly. If there is something I can’t miss because we’re dealing with a big client or signing, my ex will usually help cover for me—and I do the same for him. We accommodate each other’s schedules, and we are very flexible when one of us needs coverage. I realize how rare this can be in divorce, and I am grateful for it.

Q: When your status shifted from being married to being a Solo Mom, did you feel a shift in your community?

A: No. If anything, I felt a lot of love and support from everyone. Luckily, no friends were lost in this divorce(!), although I definitely find myself seeking out other single moms or just mom friends in general. I’m always trying to pull my friends together to do things with the kids—trying to expand the circle. More people to love in your life is always a good thing.

Q: Are there specific resources that help you?

A: Having friends with kids helps. Build your network of moms, and help each other. You’ll make close friendships and so will your kids. Working in the music business means nights out from time to time. There is no way around it, so get your support system in place. There are a lot of moms in the music business. Find them!

Q: Has being a Solo Mom posed any sort of detriment to furthering your career?

A: In between the time I’ve become a single mom and now, I’ve been promoted twice, so I can say with certainly that it hasn’t held me back from furthering my career, and because I have a great relationship with my ex, he’s willing to help out if it’s “my night” and I have an important work event I need to attend. I do the same for him. We both love the extra time we get with our son, so if covering each other means we get extra time, we always take it.

Q: Was there a defining moment when you realized you were a Solo Mom?

A: My son was with his dad, and it was one of my first nights after my ex moved out. I pulled up to my house, and it was empty and dark. I sat in the driveway feeling so alone. I’ve never felt lonely as a parent, but in that moment, I felt alone as a person realizing that I was thirtysomething and single again. The feeling stunned me with deep sadness. I remember not wanting to go into the house. I think right after that I decided to throw a big party to fill up the house with people and happiness. I’ve come a long way from that night, and I can say it does get better.

Q: What are you most proud of as a Solo Mom?

A: I’m proud of how my relationship with my son only grew stronger out of this experience. Since I only have him half of the time, when I’m with him, I’m fully with him. We have more quality time, and hanging out with him is my favorite thing.

Q: What is one of your favorite single-parenting tips?

A: Sleepovers! And put your damn phone away, and be present!