Night of the Bazooms

A badass blues babe reconsiders her down-and-dirty ways

"She's really inspiring," the 30-something said, weighing in as a fellow "outsider and 200-pounder." "She's had several opportunities to sell out, and she's remained true to her roots."

I told Jenny what I'd read, which is that Candye Kane had begun questioning herself because, though she'd released eight albums and received critical acclaim and fan support, she still wasn't getting the recognition many felt she deserved. Unfortunately, the Blues Foundation won't deliver an award to someone who's widely known for a song like "Masturbation Blues."

"That's like my theme song right now," Jenny laughed.

Tony Gleeson

It's sad that the singer doesn't get the respect she deserves. I mean, Candye Kane is to masturbators what Mother Teresa was to lepers — except that instead of comforting people with her own touch, Candye heals them with permission to touch themselves.

I spotted Kane's son, who's also been her drummer since 2000, when he was just 16. He told me the five-piece band spent most of the year touring to its 250 gigs not in a bus but in a Ford 350.

"Wow," I said. "It's hard to be glamorous in a van."

"No one's glamorous in a van," he assured me.

I poked around outside to see what the porch people had to offer. That's where I met print-shop operator Bobby Eaton and his sister-in-law Cindy Galiardo. Both were curious about tonight's talent. I relayed the porn-and-piano-playing background.

"God, Bobby, you'll hate that!" Cindy teased him.

I speculated how breast size would influence her musical stylings.

"Play me a note, play me a chord — either way, I'll love it," he laughed, and then he spotted the notepad and literally jumped for joy. "I print your paper!" he said. "We read you every week — right after Savage Love."

It felt good to have my work appreciated, even if by one lone, leaping, print-shop loon who was now headed inside with his sister-in-law to see the show, based on my recommendation. When I met them inside after deflecting the advances of a tugboat captain, Cindy had quickly formed an opinion. "She's good, but she's not all that."

"You would feel differently if you weren't so skinny," I ventured.

But Tony Armstrong Jr., a special-ed teacher named after her mother, wasn't buying the so-so assessment. "I really, really wanted to see her," said Tony, one of a group who'd arrived three hours early. "She's fat-positive, openly bisexual, funny, and she has a great voice. I'm from Chicago, and I went to blues clubs all the time, so for anyone to say 'She's not all that' — well, they're wrong."

After the show, I sat down with Candye Kane in the Backroom's back room. Somewhere, I forgot that it was my job merely to record history; I wanted to make sure it held its course.

I tried to feed her a softball question about her being an inspiration to so many women, but we were continually interrupted by fans asking for photos or autographs. The hippie waitress came over to suggest that, since Candye lived in San Diego, she should play on the Blues Cruise there. It was a sore point; despite being the city's number-one blues act seven years in a row, Candye had never been invited.

As a hula-girl lamp pumped her hips to the house music, Candye bemoaned the fact that journalists always focus on how she once played the piano with her boobs.

Hey, sex sells, sister. I had just corralled two paying customers outside with that same pitch.

"They always write about 'porn star turned singer,' " she said. "But I've always sang. It's not like one day I was giving a blowjob and all of a sudden I was like, 'I think I'd like to try singing!' "

I said that, as a smart-ass nightlife columnist, I understood what it was not to be taken seriously.

"I have no regrets about the things I've done," she assured me. She's given up a lot — including time with her boys — for her career, she added, and she'd like to see some return on her investment. "If I quit being nasty and lowdown, maybe they'll put me on the Blues Cruise or give me an award so I'll get the better gigs."

I wanted to tell her that heroes have hard lives and usually get the worst gigs, but she probably would have dismissed me as a sycophantic idiot. So I left with a question.

"What if you don't get better gigs?"

"Well, that's OK, because I changed lives."

Hopefully, the Night Rider had helped put the course of history back on track.

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