Before we get started, a quick word of introduction.
CHIRP was formed, in part, to focus on independent musicians and artists that are underrepresented on the bigger, more commercial stations. All too often, in my opinion, that group includes female artists. Or rather, female artists that are more than just a pretty face and an auto-tuner. As a classically trained percussionist and a drummer, the subject of women in rock is one that is near and dear to my heart. I co-hosted the Women on Women Radio Program for years, I have spoken on panels devoted to women in rock, and heck, I even wrote my Master’s thesis on female musicians.
This post then, marks the first in a series of mini-bios highlighting female musicians who are particularly noteworthy or groundbreaking, female-led bands that have injustly slipped through the cracks into obscurity, and/or just my personal favorite ladies in the industry. I’d like to start off this feature with a look at one of the first all-female rock and roll bands: Goldie & the Gingerbreads.
Born in the era of girl groups, American band Goldie & the Gingerbreads stood out for one very important reason: they played their own instruments. In fact, the Gingerbreads were the first all-female rock band signed to a major label (Atlantic subsidiary Atco), and the first to have any sort of chart success. While other girl groups and female artists had already gained popularity within rock and roll and made an impact on the charts, these women were primarily, if not exclusively, singers. Furthermore, their backing bands were nearly always 100% male. With Goldie Zelkowitz on vocals, Carol MacDonald on guitar, Margo Lewis on organ, and Ginger Bianco on drums, the Gingerbreads were nothing short of groundbreaking. At the same time, however, they were something of a novelty in the male-dominated music industry. MacDonald readily acknowledges this fact: “‘We didn’t think anything of it,’ she says. ‘We got more jobs because they were exploiting the hell out of us. All Girl Band! They’d do the whole thing, tits and ass. And we didn’t care. We were happy because we knew we could play, and we were knocking the socks off most of the male bands. And the guys couldn’t believe it. They’d start laughing, and then they’d walk out crying’” (Garr 59). In fact, the Gingerbreads toured with some of the biggest male rock acts of the time: the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, and the Hollies, to name but a few. They even had a hit in England with the song “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” which was later a hit in the U.S. for Herman’s Hermits.
Their success, however, was limited, and their enjoyment of fame tempered by Atlantic’s manipulation of their public image. Before MacDonald joined the Gingerbreads, she recorded solo for Atlantic under the name Carol Shaw. “‘They wanted me to be Lesley Gore,’ she says. ‘My first record, “Jimmy Boy,” was that type of thing. So they give me this image, and I’m not happy. I’m not playing guitar, number one, and I’m not doing my own music” (Garr 58). Her annoyance only increased when, a few years later, the Gingerbreads were asked to record “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.” “‘I hated the song,’ says MacDonald. ‘We’re doing stuff like “Harlem Shuffle,” and then they give us this “Every time I see you… dee da dee de dee.” Eeeow! I said, “Goldie! What are we doing?” She said, “We gotta do what they say!” It’s like we had to do everything they said or we were not going to be successful’” (Garr 60).
Still, the band engaged in their own small rebellions against the prevalent negative stereotypes of female musicians. Goldie recalls, “‘We’d walk into a club with all our instruments and you could see the owner going “Oh my God, these broads? They know how to play? They really know how to play?” We’d set up and have a sound check and play totally out of tune, and I would sing the wrong lyrics. And the guy’d be chewing on his cigar going “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” And by the time we went on and counted off the song, we were cookin’. You could see the cigar drop and the guy had a heart attack… We had fun with this’” (Garr 59).
Ultimately, however, Goldie and the Gingerbreads folded due to misappropriation of finances by their management, the pressures of relentless touring, and the disappointment of never breaking big in the States. Goldie went on to become Genya Ravan and front Ten Wheel Drive (who reportedly turned down a spot at Woodstock), and later produced the Dead Boys’ debut record. Carol MacDonald and Ginger Bianco went on to form the influential jazz/funk band Isis, which later also included Margo Lewis and original Gingerbreads’ pianist Carol O’Grady. While the Gingerbreads may not have found the widespread acceptance or acclaim they craved, by the mere fact of their existence they nonetheless fought the rigidly institutionalized sexism that limited women in the music industry at the time, and paved the way for future all-girl bands to be taken seriously.
Garr, Gillian G. She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll (expanded second edition). New York: Seal, 2002.
Genya Ravan’s homepage
This article also appeared on the WOW Music Blog
Sampling and trading jokes are a common occurrence that famous comedians have to deal with; they also deal with the annoying hassle of their jokes being stolen. Joke stealing appears to be occurring more frequently and lately it is happening in Chicago.
“It’s survival of the fittest,” says South Side Comedian Kevin White, who has had several jokes stolen and later used on national TV.
It may be survival of the fittest; but also stealing jokes can affect a comedian’s own creditability as well as their professionalism. Some comedians who are victims of theft can shrug it off and continue writing new and even better jokes, while others suffer setbacks.
Comedians may spend months writing jokes and perfecting them, but to later have them stolen can be emotionally upsetting, professionally frustrating, and offensive.
Chicago Stand-Up Comedian Damon Williams referred to theft in the comedy world as great minds thinking alike and having the same joke is just a coincidence.
But Williams adds, “There is a fine line between stealing and sampling. As a comedian you often run into a situation where you have the idea but another comedian has already fleshed that idea into a joke.”
Radio host and stand-up comedian Brian Babylon disagrees. He says he seen his fair share of “Carlos Mencia’s” in the Chicago comedy world, referring to the largely publicized accusations of Mencia plagiarizing jokes from other comedians.
Most famously, popular stand-up comedian and UFC announcer Joe Rogan confronted Mencia on stage about his alleged plagiarism. George Lopez, of “The George Lopez Show,” has also made accusations of Mencia stealing his material.
What does this say about the world of comedy? About Chicago Comedians? Does joke stealing prevent local comedians from making it big?
“This is a business,” says Babylon who believes a comedian’s jokes is their property. He feels that it is not unreasonable to assume that a comedian can become financially affected when theft occurs.
For comedians who steal, “They don’t really think about the integrity side of it, because they just don’t feel like they are stealing anything. They just feel like they are doing the joke better than the comic who first put it out there,” says Mary Lindsey, Bronzeville comedy club owner of Joke and Notes. “It happens all the time,” say Lindsey.
Lindsey says ninety percent of the time the audience do not recognize the joke is stolen unless they are heavily involved in the comedy business. Lindsey attributes joking stealing in Chicago, to the over saturation of comedy in the city and every person believing they can easily become comedians.
Burt Haas, comedy club owner of Zaines, attributes some of the theft to the demands of the entertainment industry. Celebrity comedians are under constant pressure to produce jokes faster than they can handle and sometimes the only recourse is stealing.
When asked directly about their thoughts on joking stealing the Chicago Comedians responded with mixed feelings.
“It’s desperation and I’m aggressively going after that person. You’re an intellectual thief.” and “You will become notorious for stealing,” says Babylon.
Williams adds, if a comedian has their material stolen they should not, “dwell on it.” He believes one stolen joke does not affect comedians from making it out of Chicago or establishing a name in the comedy business, he advises local comedians who are victims of theft to keep writing.
White initially felt upset when his jokes were stolen and also felt he could not make it big if his jokes were making it to TV before he did. Later he was flattered by the theft of his jokes, because it shows he is a good writer and his jokes are good enough to make it on to national TV.
Many comedians reach a point in their career where they are desperate, under pressure or are on stage performing and need a joke to save them from getting heckled. In the culture of comedy, many concepts like grasping, reaching, and stealing seems to be a natural occurrence.
Are there rules in the comedy world? What can be done about joking stealing?
Williams says the universal rule in comedy is if two comedians have the same joke then the first person to perform the joke on TV is the one that validates the joke.
Timing is most important in the comedy culture because comedians have to constantly write material that is funny enough to perform and funny enough to make it on national TV. Sometimes the best way to protect their material from being stolen is to perform it live on TV, and even that is not always good enough.
“Getting the strongest protection possible is the first step toward getting their work protected,” says Exavier Pope, Chicago Entertainment Attorney.
Pope says there are many steps a comedian can take to protect their material, which first includes getting all work copyrighted by the U.S Copyright Office.
Copyright law protects any expressible forms of ideas or information that are substantive, discrete, and fixed in a medium which includes jokes and other written material. Once a copyright has been obtained, the next step would be an order to “cease and desist” to the party committing the infringement, then move towards establishing the extent of the infringement and seeking monetary damages.
“The entertainment industry can be cutthroat at times” but Pope says the rule of thumb is, “First in time, first in line.”