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In 1986, Kane moved to San Diego to be with then-boyfriend, now-husband Tom Yearsley, currently the bassist for the well-known roots-rock trio the Paladins. She quickly cultivated a following there, and continued marketing herself. It was the following year that the Sony/Epic offer came.
The demo tape that Kane sent to Music City was produced by Val Garay, whose credits include albums by Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, and the Motels, and Kane's manager was Sherman Halsey. The tape ended up in the hands of legendary Nashville producer Billy Sherrill, who beckoned Kane to visit him behind the Pine Curtain.
"It was a disaster," Kane says with a sigh. "They thought 'Val Garay' must be some exotic dancer--they'd never heard of him in Nashville--and Val wanted total control, which didn't make him any new friends. Halsey wanted me to act like a born-again Christian--literally--and change my wicked ways. He's Dwight Yoakam's manager, so you'd think he'd know better. And Billy Sherrill took one look at my wild hair and black lace and shook his head. This was all pre-k.d. lang and Lyle Lovett, so they had no idea what to do with me. I knew that it wasn't going anywhere. There's Halsey preaching at me to dress differently, telling me don't talk about smoking pot or my past, wanting me to transform myself into something I wasn't, while Sherrill sits there drinking bourbon at 10 in the morning."
Kane returned to the West Coast with a new focus. No longer was her whole aim simply to land a recording contract, and there was no way she was going to conceal her past. Country music--which she'd once fondly called "white man's blues--was losing its luster, too. Her brief time on Music Row had compelled Kane to examine her own roots. The net result of her self-searching manifested itself a couple of years ago in, of all places, Nashville. Kane was invited to showcase her talents at the Bluebird Cafe, a room known to swell with Music City songwriters, producers, A&R reps and the like.
"By then I stopped giving a shit about what they thought about me in Nashville," Kane says. "I was with [L.A. musician-producer] Robert Savery and [musician-songwriter] Jack Tempchin--who wrote 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling'--and we called it our 'Shake Up the Bible Belt Tour.' After my last visit to Nashville, I realized that country music was repressing me, especially the modern schlock oozing out of there. So I sang dirty songs, real lewd and lascivious stuff. I told the audience that I'd give a blowjob to anyone who'd give me a record deal. They looked shocked--like I was really going to do it."
Kane sighs and laughs briefly.
"You know, in L.A. they've seen it all at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, and they're fairly jaded in Austin, too. But they're real backwards in Nashville, Tennessee."
Kane's show continues to rely heavily on old songs and originals, but now they are filled with bluesy, sassy, sexual innuendoes. Her new tape, the independently released Burlesque Swing, quite aptly portrays Kane's recent musical stylings. Produced by Robert Savery and featuring Kane's six-piece band, the heavy-on-the-horns Swingin' Armadillos, the tape harbors classically naughty ditties like George "Wild Child" Butler's "Put It All in There" and Bullmoose Jackson's "Big 10 Inch Record--as well as Kane's own juicy "The Meat Song." Burlesque Swing--recorded live at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, California--also contains Jack Tempchin's rocking "Everybody Needs Love" and Kane's show closer and rockabilly trademark, "Boogie Woogie Country Girl." "I'm brassy and outspoken," Candye Kane understates. "Even though it's not life or death anymore, I would not turn up my nose at a record deal--although it would have to be on my terms. I'd also like to find a manager who isn't afraid of the controversial aspects of my life."
In fact, Kane's recent commitment to undiluted self-expression includes work with the National Organization for Women (NOW). Kane founded a Campus Friends of NOW chapter at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, where she is just a couple of classes short of finishing her requirements for a degree in Women's Studies. Her efforts for NOW earned her that organization's esteemed Susan B. Anthony Citizenship Award.
She is also active in COYOTE (Call Off Your Old, Tired Ethics), an association of ex- and current madams and working girls seeking unfettered freedom to pursue the world's oldest profession. Kane has reservations about COYOTE--she advocates regulation and free, regular medical testing while COYOTE's hard-core group howls for total deregulation--but supports the organization nonetheless. Neither does she find any contradiction in embracing feminist principles while singing decidedly nonfeminist anthems.
"I don't have to agree with everybody, and they sure don't have to agree with me," Kane maintains. "You know, feminism typically has not been a place where strippers find solace and communion. A friend of mine who is a woman of color feels that way, too. But it's high time we made it our place to go."
Kane talks about how good it feels to be able to be her saucy self, while simply letting the recording-deal chips fall where they may. She does worry, however, about how potential audience members might perceive her show. She is concerned that she'll be prejudged.