Candye Kane has been called a survivor, a superhero and the toughest girl alive. (All are also titles of her self-penned songs.) Her eleventh CD release, Sister Vagabond, will hit the streets on August 16, 2011 on Delta Groove Records. Produced by Kane and her noted guitarist Laura Chavez, Sister Vagabond is a worthy successor to their 2010 collaboration, Superhero, which was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues CD in the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards.
The jump-blues singer, songwriter and mother of two from East Los Angeles is a five-time nominee for Blues Music Awards, has nabbed ten San Diego Music Awards and starred in a sold-out stage play about her life. She’s beat pancreatic cancer in the last two years. She has performed worldwide for presidents and movie stars.
But her path to success was not always glamorous or easy. Raised in what she calls a dysfunctional blue-collar family, Candye became a mother, a pinup cover girl and a punk-rock, hillbilly blues-belter by the time she was just 21 years old. Ten CDs, six record labels, millions of international road miles and countless awards later, Miss Kane has proven to be a true survivor as she scrambled her way to the top of the roots-music heap, creating a world renowned reputation that has spanned two decades.
A colorful mixture of the traditional and the eclectic, Kane cut her musical teeth in the early ’80s onstage with Hollywood musicians and friends Social Distortion, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, Los Lobos, The Blasters, X, Fear and the Circle Jerks, to name just a few. While raising two sons, this role model for the disenfranchised championed large-sized women, fought for the equal rights of sex workers and the GLBT community and inspired music lovers everywhere. Her fans are a mixture of true outsiders: bikers, blues fans, punk rockers, drag queens, fat girls, queers, burlesque dancers, porn fans, sex workers, rockabilly and swing dancers, gray-haired hippies, sex-positive feminists and everyday folk of all ages.
In 1986, then married to Thomas Yearsley of the Paladins, she was touched by the music of Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and more. Her self-released 1991 Burlesque Swing caught the ear of Texas impresario Clifford Antone, who signed her to a deal with Antone’s Records. Los Lobos’ Cesar Rosas and Paladin/Hacienda Brother/Stone River Boy Dave Gonzalez co-produced the first album of the deal, Home Cookin’. Picked up by Discovery (later Sire) Records, the Dave Alvin/Derek O’Brien-produced Diva La Grande was followed by Swango in the height of the swing craze.
Rounder/Bullseye Records signed her in 1995, releasing The Toughest Girl Alive, produced by Scott Billington. Four albums followed on the German RUF label, including the Bob Margolin-produced Guitar’d and Feathered. She then pacted with her current label, Delta Groove, releasing Superhero in 2010 and now Sister Vagabond in 2011.
Her full-time, 250-days-a-year touring schedule started in 1992. And today, Kane’s live shows are the stuff of legend. She honors the bold blues women of the past with both feet firmly planted in the present. She belts, growls, shouts, croons and moans from a lifetime of suffering and overcoming obstacles. She uses music as therapy and often writes and chooses material with positive affirmations that leave the audience feeling healed and exhilarated. In a show that is part humor, part revival meeting and party sexuality celebration, she'll deliver a barrelhouse-tongue-in-cheek blues tune or a gospel ballad, encouraging audiences to leave behind religious intolerance. She’ll slay the crowd with her balls out rendition of “Whole Lotta Love” or glorify the virtues of zaftig women with “200 Pounds of Fun.” She often says she is a ”fat black drag queen trapped in a white woman's body” and she dresses the part.
Kane has been included in countless blues and jazz CD anthologies including Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide and Musichound: Blues, The Essential Album Guide and Dan Aykroyd’s 30 Essential Women of the Blues. She appeared on the influential call-to-arms of Southern California roots music, A Town South of Bakersfield on Enigma Records, alongside Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yoakam.
In addition to her musical achievements, Kane has become an activist and philanthropist in recent years. In August 2009, she appeared in Dublin, Ireland for the World Congress for Downs Syndrome with her United by Music charity. The project provides performance opportunities, blues history lessons and songwriting instruction to young people with disabilities, encouraging them to write their own blues songs to help them overcome their daily challenges.
A fighter par excellence, Candye has an authenticity, determination and optimism that keep her shows passionate, honest and irresistible.
“I take things one day at a time and today I am feeling great and very optimistic about my new CD,” Kane says. It’s been awesome to write and co-produce again with my guitarist Laura Chavez. I am grateful for every chance I get to make music live, or in the studio. Most people are given only three months to live after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and three years later, I am still here. So any opportunity I have to create music makes me humbled and grateful.
“People ask me why I want to work so hard and so much, since I tour 250 days a year. Everyone says I should stay home and relax after my health struggle. But music is my life and neuroendocrine cancer is a mostly manageable disease. I will continue to work as much as I can because I know life is fragile anyway. I would be fine if I died onstage doing what I love like Country Dick Montana or Johnny Guitar Watson. I’m not planning on going anytime soon, but when I do exit this plane, I hope it’s making someone else feel inspired by the powerful words in my songs.”