Goldie & The Gingerbreads
There were a few all female jazz and swing bands during WWII, a few women playing instruments in bands during the rock and roll era, and more than a few female singers, but the first all female band playing their own instruments wasn't signed to a major label until 1963. Polish born, 17-year old, Brooklyn-bred vocalist, Goldie Zelkowitz (fka Genyusha Zelkowitz) worked with a doo wop crew called the Escorts and she recruited drummer Ginger Bianco (fka Panabianco), with the idea to form an all female band. Goldie and the Gingerbreads was the name they came up with when they inked with Decca. By 1964 they added Margo Lewis (organ) and Carol MacDonald (guitar).
The Gingerbread's big break seems to have been a party thrown for Warhol associate Baby Jane Holzer. Mick Jagger and Ahmet Ertegun, were there,too. They were soon signed to Atlantic and off on a tour of Europe where they opened for The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Kinks, to name a few. They had one charting tune in England (Can't You Hear My Heartbeat), but could never breakthrough in the US. The lack of success doesn't seem to have been much of a deterrent, because after the disintegration of Goldie & The Gingerbreads, all four women remained in the music business.
Goldie & The Gingerbreads on British TV(give it about 18 seconds to kick in)
Goldie Becomes Genya Ravan:Ten Wheel Drive
Despite the mostly novelty status of her band, Genya Ravan gained invaluable experience and contacts in the music biz. Her blues belting voice may have been her calling card, but she was interested in controlling her career and her sound. After the Gingerbreads it didn't take long for her to put together (with a host of seasoned New York pros) Ten Wheel Drive. She still didn't have complete artistic control with TWD, but they made 3 LP's together that have become cult faves among the deeper digging classic rock crowd. Horn driven blues/rock, as was the style of the day, but for whatever reason, no hits. To my ears these records could've easily fit into the FM radio of the day, but it was not to be. Genya left the band after 1971 to persue a solo career and to try to get someone to let her make the record she wanted to make.
Ten Wheel Drive - Stay With Me
Ten Wheel Drive - Tightrope
It's a man's world..except for Genya (Ten wheel Drive)
TWD's Greatest Hits
Nude, All-Female Feminist Bands With Silver Body Paint Singing About Football
Around 1973, with Genya Ravan already set to release her second solo record, Carol MacDonald was looking to get the old band back together. She began gigging at Trude Heller's Greenwich Village nightspot with an 8 piece horn driven rock band that would become, Isis. And, oh yeah, all the band members were women, including original Gingerbread drummer Ginger Bianco, as well as, a conga player named Liberty Mata.
Isis-Do The Football
A Rolling Stone article in 1973 detailed the beginnings of the band (somewhat breathless about the all female band idea), that eventually signed to Buddah and released their self titled debut in 1974. Rolling Stone did not review any of the three Isis records and there was one negative concert review that I saw when they opened for 3 Dog Night or some other 70's stalwart. The sound of the Isis records is similar to Ten Wheel Drive (blues based w/horns), except Isis is a tad funkier and a little more soulful. Lyrically, the Isis records have plenty of overt references to women loving women, which might've been a stretch for audiences outside of Greenwich Village. So despite the major label signing, a less controlled environment, and a string of producers from Shadow Morton (New York Dolls), Allen Toussaint (Labelle,Pointer Sisters), and Len Barry (Philly based Blue eyed soul), Isis didn't breakout.
For my money the first record, even though it's all over the place stylistically is the best, the second having too many Toussaint-isms( Pointer-esque group vocals..and BTW, I Love Allen Toussaint), and the 3rd hinting at disco. The line up added original Gingerbreads organist Margo Lewis for the second album, and went through numerous changes in their 6 year run, becoming a sort of-Jazz Messengers for aspiring female rockers. Again though, like the Ten Wheel Drive sides, Isis never had complete control of their output. Whatever strides the Women's Movement made in the 70's didn't go far enough to change the ways of the music biz.
Isis-Bobbie & Maria
Ain't No Backing Up Now (1975)
Isis-Looking For A Space
Isis - Breaking Through (1977)
What Happened Next?
Goldie/Genya: Still gigging, 6 solo LP's, First woman to produce an all male band (major label)-Dead Boys-Sonic Reducer, Memoir-Lollipop Lounge,Host on Little Stevens Underground Garage.
Carol: Came out when she was with Isis, worked in Women's Music through the 80's, died in 2007.
Margo: founderof Talent Consultants International, an agency whose clients include Bo Diddley, The Village People, and Wilson Pickett.
Ginger:GLBT Historical Society "Women Breaking Barriers" award (2007). Joined Carol for Isis reunion shows in 1997.
Goldie and the Gingerbreads entered into the music biz as a curiosity and could easily have become a footnote to music history. Instead, each in their own way, they made significant contributions to rock and roll culture, breaking a number of barriers and glass ceilings along the way. What they did would make their music a second thought, but the music is just as worthy as the story of their struggles and triumphs in the boys club of the music biz.
Carol Macdonald:I had too many years of being in the closet. I did that with Goldie and the Gingerbreads - it drove me crazy! I hated it! ISIS may have made it if I hadn't come out. Maybe. I don't know that though. The girls that [joined] the band, they were ... gonna get a rep as being gay because of me, and I would tell them that from the beginning - because most of them weren't [gay]."