Interviews are always different, no two are ever the same. Some are like trying pulling teeth from an alligator. Others you ask just one question and it’s off to the races as you try to hold on for dear life.
Then there are very special ones, and this is one of those gems.
I have listened to Lady (Ladee) Bianca’s music for some time and always enjoyed her throaty voice and unique phrasing, combine that with a rolling piano and drop dead lyrics – they never cease to make me smile no matter what the subject matter. It connects to that heartbeat inside my soul. Of course we have never met, but with her release of the highly successful release ‘Servin’ Notice‘ I wanted to talk to her about her music and life.
Well little did I know that I would make this phone call and wind up sitting in the living room, just hanging out with her and Stanley as if we were long lost friends that grew up together and finally hooked up again after all these years. I have tried to keep the spontaneity and fun that we had inside this recreation. I know I will fall short of that lofty goal, but damn folks if you can just sit down with this and read it and free your mind ya just might catch some of those very cool vibes and feelings.
B411: Good afternoon, I always try to be sure to call artists in the afternoon cos morning is such a shaky time for them.
Lady Bianca (LB): Nah, you see in MY house we get early to try to get those Blues together. I’m glad you called me, you write such wonderful stuff, glad you enjoyed my CD. Stanley (Lippitt) is here also, my partner he may be chiming in now and then, hard to keep a good man down.
B411: Thanks for the props, that’s very sweet of you. Ya know it’s as close to being a musician as I’m ever gonna get, including not getting rich off it!
LB: If you gonna get into it you gotta get into it with all your feet and hands, otherwise you gonna be slippin’ in it and messin’ around, it’s not easy. Tell me! I remember when my first husbands family was telling us “…you ain’t gonna make no money at that music stuff, I dunno why y’all don’t just go and get yourselves a job cause that music ain’t gonna get you no car, no house nothing ya better go get yourself a job”, They used to tell him that all the time, we happened to make it good until I had children then I took time off. I’m an old lady, but even now, I’m still trying to do something here but it’s hard. You gotta love it to do it and stay with it.
B411: But you’re still doing it, and well I might add. So where are you from originally?
LB: I was born Kansas City, then moved out to San Francisco – then met my second husband in Oakland, my husband Stanley. We write and do all the work together in the music.
Stanley Lippitt (SL): Hello how are you buddy?
B411: I am very good Mr. Stanley !
SL: You can call me Stanley, you making me feel old.
LB: (laughing) Well that’s the way people are referring to us these days, Ladee Bianca and Mr. Stanley. You got to get your respects in, ya know, besides people refer to us that way now so…
B411: Absolutely, got to get them while you can. Now getting to some well deserved respects for you, you come from a Rock background. Word on the street is that you had backed Frank Zappa amongst others.
LB: Yeh I was like hanging with him.
B411: Tell us more about how the Blues found you….
LB: First of all, my mother was a stickler, she did not want me associated with Blues music or Rhythm & Blues – she was a gospel fan as was my (step) Dad. Now my step father was from Houston, Texas so he taught Texas Blues. He would change the lyrics on Ray Charles songs, he’d play the same song but change the lyrics to gospel when we were in front of my mother. He was a huge Ray Charles and B.B. King fan. So I’d be singing these songs like ‘Feel So Good‘ and instead of singing “Feel so good, I wanna Boogie” I’d be singing and playing on the piano, “I say Jesus, makes me feel so good”. We couldn’t say those things in the house.
He would come in when I was playing and just smile at me and laugh, I had no idea why, but then I learned that he had changed the lyrics so they were clean, and that’s what we were singing and playing.
B411: There has always been the eternal fight between Gospel of the church and the Blues of sinners -
LB: Exactly, going to see Mavis Staples, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and others when I was younger. I didn’t know I was looking at show business back then, I was enthralled by the Gospel flavor of it all. They had their hair on, they were dressed up and in fine form and performing, till they got sweaty..
SL: You see the Blues is the brother of Gospel and…
LB: If ya ask me it was the sister, that’s what I was checking out.
SL: It’s all show business, they both put on a show for you. They don’t differentiate all that much because in the end they are putting on a show for you – pure show business.
B411: So true, look at some of the names of the artists that straddled both worlds, going back to Son House. Sam Cooke is prominent in my mind as one of them.
LB: I loved Sam Cooke, he was on both sides. But I really loved the Mighty Clouds of Joy because they had their hair on in pompadours and shark skin suits. The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, they couldn’t see but they would walk to the edge of the stage and we would be gasping for fear they would fall off the stage. These performers would have the place in a tizzy.
B411: I think that’s a vital aspect of the music that’s becoming lost in today’s world.
LB: I think the youngsters today don’t have an idea of what really is intense show business that these folks laid the path of.
B411: Especially us ‘white people’ who were never exposed to that form of music and level of entertainment before. Like until Tina Turner crossed over with the Rolling Stones we had no idea of that level of showmanship.
LB: Indeed, she was one my idols. I got to meet her and boy, did my eyes get opened up then. It was seeing the real deal and how they were behind the stage and all the work that went into it. I was just an innocent back then, we didn’t have a TV just a transistor radio.
B411: So what made you decide to sing, to be a performer?
LB: I was kind of a ‘nerd’ back in school, kids would pick on me, I don’t know why but…so I had liked artists like Barbra Streisand and Astrid Gilberto, and decided the best way to make them see that I am OK was to show them that I COULD DO something.
So we were having a school rally, and I volunteered to sing at it. Child the day I went there and I was announced, I got so scared I panicked, legs were shaking and said I couldn’t do it. They said you got no choice you wanted it so you going to do it.
At the side of the stage I’m waiting to go on and I’m shaking like leaf. I get on stage and start singing “People” by Barbra Streisand and the whole school starts screaming and something hit me. That’s was when I knew that was what I was supposed to do. I was never afraid again. I wound up singing at all the events after that.
B411: How cool, but what happened after that – obviously you didn’t stay singing covers in Texas.
LB: I got a scholarship to the Conservatory of Music, I was training to be an Opera singer. They were teaching me Bach and Beethoven but I didn’t like the what they were teaching me. I grew up on Gospel and what they were teaching me was not quite right for my ear and style.
B411: Yeah that’s on the one and three!
LB: Well yeah, but that Bach…I would change his time signature and make it funky with more of a Gospel feel. He was creating the first style of dance music back then. They didn’t like what I was doing back then, they’d say that was not the way he wrote it and so on, well, I didn’t graduate from there. Went three an a half years there, but it just didn’t work out. But that vocal training was priceless. It has served me well over the years.
B411: So how did you get the name ‘Ladee Bianca’- is it from your Classical roots?
LB: Well I met this guy, who was looking for a singer to sing with him and with his band, Quinton Harrison. When we rehearsed it was obvious that I was classically trained and he decided to call Ladee Bianca. I was so square and lady-like goody two-shoes…..So I come to find out that we were going to work at a strip joint in the Bay area. After I’d sing I would go hide in the dressing room I was so scared and also underage. Plus if my parents ever found out I am sure they would kill me. So no one ever knew that I was underage, and by playing these spots helped my learn my craft. I met so many great artists who helped and allowed me to expand and become a better performer.
B411: So who were some of your influences or mentors through these years?
LB: I was always admired the phrasing of Billy Holiday and Little Esther, also Sly Stone was like a guru to me. He taught me so much about the music business, I worked on an album with Sly, and just adored the way he brought the Gospel sound into the music he did. Unfortunately it didn’t last, I was quite saddened and hurt by the turn of events but it all lead to other opportunities.
So one day I get a call from this guy who says to me “Mr. Zappa would like you to come to Los Angeles to audition” I had no idea who he was, but my first husband was crazy over that and was like we gotta go down.
So I met Zappa, and again my straight background rears it’s head, and when he shows me the lyrics I was through. I told him I can’t do this, but he said do what you do and it’ll be fine. So if you ever get a copy of “Philly ’76” it features me.
B411: Yep I can see your aversion to some of that stuff. Even when he was crossing over and gaining popularity with the masses, he still did things like “Dirty Love”.
LB: Yeh I did that, (singing) “give me your dirty laahhhh-ove” (She sings thru some great lyrics and I would not be able to do her justice here), That was one of the most frightening time of my life, Frank wanted to bring me to what I could become but my Mothers restricted upbringing it was conflicting. I was on the road with him about a year – I felt that I was as good a singer as anyone, but he wanted to wrap me in toilet paper or take off my clothes on stage, the other band members didn’t have to do that so why should I. He did help me become a better keyboard player, he got me into playing the clavinet then.
B411: Your voice is very intriguing. It is strong, melodic and comes from experience. There is no doubt that when you sing it exposes your soul.
LB: It is experience, it is motherhood, it is painful relationships, it is happy praise to God, it is all my inner emotions that I can put out there and not be judged on. The enjoyment of pushing out ‘the voice’, It’s a personality all it’s own, Lusty Lil, Sandra the cool female, a hard core woman like Koko Taylor’s sister, and then there is Bianca who is really soft who can get her feelings hurt very easily.
SL: What it is is caviar and collard greens.
B411: I love Stanley he stays in the background playing on the computer but just drops by to drop the mother lode of knowledge on us when needed.We all laugh at his preciseness of delivery and the depth of input.
LB: Yes I met Stanley after my children were grown and he’s the collard greens and I am the caviar. He’s from Georgia and I am from Kansas City.
B411: So you two collaborate musically and have your own label.
LB: Yes, it’s funny we change on and off, but Stanley writes all the lyrics and I write the music. We exchange the ideas and it works. On the song “He Told Me The Same Thing Too” from the Servin’ Notice release, he wrote that back in nineteen fifty two, and I rearranged it for today’s sound, and added some of that Sly Stone ‘fonk’ to it.
B411: That’s a great track, funky way to open an album. Hell, that’s my birth year thanks Stanley, I am honored.
SL: We have our own record company so that we can say what we want to say. A lot of record companies might say that it is too much this and too much that, or too Black – but we can say what we want to.
LB: We can say it but it might not get played.
B411: I think it gets played, ‘Bluesville’ picked you guys up, ‘Music Choice’ gives ya spins, and hopefully there are college and internet stations that are spinning your discs.
LB: Bill Wax has been very good to us, as has Bob Porter from Music Choice.
B411: Good, I am happy to hear that. Now ya know we, the Blues, seems to have got away from when ladies sang the Blues, and ruled them. I’d like to see more of that and less of the ‘guitar masturbation’ that seems to be the flavor of the day (who’s time has passed).
LB: That’s exactly what it is, it’s just good singers are less and less. See, little Milton is my heart. When people sang and you felt what they said. What we have now is luke warm vocals and lyrics but not good vocal tracks. When I hear Susan Tedeschi sing – that’s what I wanna hear. Hey I want to ‘sang’ with Susan Tedeschi. I don;t want to ‘sing’ nothing I want to ‘sang’ it.
SL: See with hip-hop and the music out there the kids don’t get a chance to hear what real singing is. Emotion and feelings and real lyrics. That’s why kids don’t like the Blues today cause they think it’s all “I’m drunk on Sterno, and can’t get up, my baby left me and I sold my soul” people are getting tired of that. They need to relate- but they also need to hear what real feeling is – they need to check out Little Milton, Bobby Bland, Etta James.
B411: I think “Cadillac Records”, as lame as it was, was good for the exposure it gave the genre and some of the old artists who laid that pavement. We need to get the young folks out to festivals and shows to see LIVE music with people playing real instruments and singing.
But that not goes for the young folks, it’s for all the people who think the Blues are passe’ or dead.
LB: It’s like your child, you always love it no matter what it becomes or is at the moment, it will always have a place in your heart.
B411: That’s a great thought, one we should all hold on to. Thank you two sweet folks for taking time out of your day to talk so openly with me. I hope I get the chance to see you perform soon.
You can visit and learn more about Lady Bianca at her site: http://www.ladybianca.com/
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: courtesy of artist
Where Blues Thrives