A Different Butterfly — 15 Random Roads I Might Have Taken

Well, it’s been another bruising week of news stories, and I felt the need to distract myself and perhaps you, dear readers, at least for a little while. So, I’m taking up Nancy’s “15 Random Facts Blogging Challenge.” With a slight twist. I was lucky enough to wander down many roads in my younger days. And had a few things gone differently, I may have turned out to be a whole other kind of butterfly.

1. When I was in my twenties, I endeavored, somewhat seriously, though not very ambitiously, to be a rock star. Which leads to #2.

2. For several months, I fronted a blues/rock band as the lead singer. Until, that is, the lead guitarist and the rhythm guitarist had a huge fight at rehearsal one day and decided not to play with each other — or the rest of us — anymore. Since between them, they owned nearly all of our sound equipment, that was the end of the band. I don’t even remember now what we called ourselves. The rest of my aborted rock singing career was much of a piece, sad to say. Would-be rock musicians are not the most dependable colleagues.

3. My audition song for the above band was “Jailhouse Rock,” made famous by Elvis Presley. This was sung at the band’s request. Yes, I was surprised, too, that a bunch of boys mostly into people like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and J. J. Cale would ask for this. However, I guess I put it across, because they told me I had the gig as soon as I was done. This was after admitting that they expected me to sound like Joni Mitchell, and were astonished when I sounded more like Wanda Jackson. I told them I could, in fact, sound like Joni Mitchell if I wanted to, but I was adaptable.

4. Speaking of which, my favorite band audition, at least song-wise, was getting to sing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The thing about being a female mezzo soprano is that you can pretty much cover and even exceed the vocal range of most male rock-and-roll tenors. Robert Plant? Piece of cake, including growls and wailing the high notes. Roger Daltrey? No sweat. Musically, this particular band had decent chops, at least on Led Zeppelin tunes, and they were impressed with my vocals. But it didn’t take long for me to suss out that they were mostly interested in getting high with and laid by their imagined future groupies. No thanks, dudes. See ya.

5. Speaking of vocal imitations, I can still do a very creditable Grace Slick. “White Rabbit” and/or “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love.”

6. I’ve also been known to do a believable Stevie Nicks, which, for some reason, works really well when my allergies are acting up.

7. Yes, I can indeed sing like Joni Mitchell. One of my favorites of her songs to sing is “Blue.” Just love the opening: “Blue-oo-oo-oo-oo-hoo-hoo, songs are like tattoos. You know, I’ve been to sea before. Crown and anchor me, or let me saaaiiiilll aaaa-waaaaayyyyyyy!” Hell, I can sing the whole damn album, which, in my opinion, is still one of the greats of all time. “I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling.” Truer words… Wish I could play the piano as well as she.

8. I can sort of play the piano. I used to noodle around with our beat-up piano when I was a kid. Particularly when I was the only alto in the kids’ church choir, I used to spend hours after school playing Christmas carols so I could work out the alto parts confidently. When you’re the only alto, and the only kid who can harmonize, you have to be loud. I was.

9. I can still read music, although I’m rusty. I tried, albeit not very hard, to teach myself to play the guitar when I was in high school. Secretly, I wanted to learn to play the drums. But there was this kid who lived across the street, whose parents let him practice his drum-playing in a tent on their front lawn, much to the agitation of the neighbors. I’m not sure if it was everyone’s ever-more-threatening complaints or the kid’s lack of rhythm, but the drum-playing stopped after a few months. Thereafter, I decided not to bring up my secret aspiration.

10. I did take piano lessons in my twenties. Only problem was that I didn’t have a piano in my apartment to practice on. I bought an electric keyboard, but it didn’t really lend itself to Chopin and Mozart. Then I took voice lessons to strengthen my vocal chords against the vicissitudes of singing rock songs. For that audition, inspired by Linda Ronstadt, I sang the Eagles’ song “Desperado.” Mind you, this teacher mostly taught classical singers, but she played the piano sheet music I brought gamely and ably. And when I was done, she said, “You don’t need me to teach you how to sing. You already know how to sing. But I could teach you how to stretch your voice a little.” Gosh! Naturally, I was game. Her version of “stretching” was to have me listen to and practice singing Maria Callas’s version of ‘Vissi D’Arte’ from Tosca. So help me. After several lessons, I think I was able to get through it without weeping (it’s that kind of aria). Then I got busy with other stuff and moved on.

11. That might have been around the time I went to modeling school. I had this idea that modeling paid better than running the word processing department at Boston University (my current job then). So if I could do that instead, I could make enough money working part-time so I could have more time to pursue rock stardom. Or something. In any case, it was a brief course on Wednesday nights. Best memory had to do with the photo shoot scheduled at the end of the course. Now, my dad was a photographer, and my then-boyfriend was a photographer. So, I knew from photographers. For our photo shoot, we had been instructed to bring a dressy outfit and a casual outfit. The night finally arrived, and the fashion photographer strolled in, plunked down a couple of enormous equipment bags, looked around at our nervous faces, and said, “So, have you all got your scuba-diving gear ready?” Swear to god, I was the only one who laughed. Duh. Needless to say, he and I hit it off. But he also kindly gave me the lowdown on the average income potential of modeling in Boston, which was not as much as I’d hoped, and the effort it would take to earn it, which was a lot more than it took to run a university word processing department. End of that story. Nice pix, though. Can’t find ’em, sadly.

12. At which point, I decided to take advantage of BU’s tuition reimbursement benefit and work on finishing my bachelor’s degree. I took creative writing classes. No big surprise, eh? Way fun.

13. Not, perhaps, quite as much fun as the art classes I had taken at the Massachusetts College of Art, which sometimes entailed my lugging a large painting-in-progress to work, hanging it on the wall behind my desk, and schlepping it to class. I like to think I temporarily improved the office decor.

14. And then there was the resumption of dance classes at the Joy of Movement studio in Cambridge. I had already studied ballet, tap, and jazz dance for years growing up, so it was great to get back into it. The music was more adventurous, too. Not that I minded dancing to all that Chopin and Bob Fosse as a child. It’s all good when you’re dancing.

15. I could go on. In a different lifetime or six, I would love to have been an opera singer, a jazz singer, an orchestra conductor, a choreographer, an actor/singer on Broadway, a playwright, a costume designer, or maybe a CG/film special effects artist for something like the Harry Potter franchise.

Damn. This whole working-for-a-living thing really sidetracks you, doesn’t it?

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Saturday, July 23, 2016 at 02:07 pm, filed under Art & Music, Play, Stories from Childhood . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

14 Responses to “A Different Butterfly — 15 Random Roads I Might Have Taken”

  1. Wow, Kathi, you have a whole musical side I didn’t know about. It was fun learning more about you. And, yes, working for a living really puts a crimp in the ole style.

  2. Never too late, Eileen. After the Curmudgeon wrote about her 15 things, she and I thought we might start a band called ‘Syrup Paranoia.’ πŸ˜‰

  3. Ooh loved learning all these wonderful things about you. Not surprised in the least to learn about your rock chick past πŸ˜‰

  4. Seriously had more fun in my twenties, Marie, than anyone has a right to have. πŸ˜‰

  5. Soooooooo, we have much in common :). Very much loved reading this.

  6. Yes, I think we do, LTC. πŸ™‚

  7. Kathi, you’ve done a lot of creative/fun things in your life! Playing the drums has always appealed to me but never tried it. The one instrument I regret not learning to play was the violin. I love it when they put strings like violin in rock. And yes, working for a living takes up a lot of our time and distracts us. If I could switch jobs, I would take animation. Something else I wish I would have learned. But I do enjoy writing. Maybe it’s not too late for me.

    Loved learning more about you. xoxo

  8. Huh. See, Rebecca? We have more in common than we knew. Love the violin! What a splendid instrument. And animation!! Oh, I would love to do more of that. Have played around a little bit with it, and it’s just so fun. Hours can go by while I’m playing with the computer and just drawing and drawing and drawing and drawing…

    Having a creative soul is such a gift, isn’t it? xo

  9. Oh my, Kathi – I’m having a bit of a flashback reading this, from Elvis to Tosca! Music has a way of instantly transporting us back in time, doesn’t it?

    The closest I’ve ever come to the insider’s life you describe is when my son’s band (“I Hate Sally” – perhaps you have some of their hideous death metal CDs in your collection?!?) They were big (in some intense punk circles) in the 90s and during one long tour of U.S. and Canada, they hit the west coast to play five shows here in his hometown. I and all our friends and family showed up to cheer on opening night (although he had been tour for five years with this band, none of us had actually ever seen a live show until now). When we arrived at the downtown venue, I got to tell the people at the door something I’ve wanted to say since the 60s:

    “I’m with the band!”

  10. Hahahah, Carolyn! Motherhood confers its privileges, eh? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of your son’s band, but by the 90’s, I was back in school and working slowly into & then through grad school. I feel like a missed a lot of music, but there’s always so much music going on, you always miss something. The crazy part for me is that the absolute last thing I ever thought I’d end up doing is being a healthcare clinician. When I first worked in a hospital, I used to chuckle to myself about how unlikely it was that I was even there. All that early exploring continues to help me keep things in perspective, no matter what happens. πŸ™‚

  11. I am almost 45 and I STILL have the rock star fantasy. Unlike you tho’ I have no musical talent. I’m good at singing along in my car tho! And, uh, and getting caught pulling my rock star faces while indulging the fantasy at stop lights–and in this small town, of course someone I know pulls up along side of me….

  12. LOL! I’ve been known to sing quite loudly while driving, as well as playing the drums on the steering wheel & dashboard at traffic stops. Those Carpool Karaoke vids on YouTube are so validating. πŸ˜€

  13. Kathi, WOW! I had no idea you were so musically gifted. Amazing. You are a Renaissance woman, and I am completely in awe of you. You are a rock star — literally and figuratively.

  14. Aw, shucks, Beth. You never know, might start a band yet… πŸ˜‰

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