Candye Kane about her journey to success

Posted by Dee-Ann On December - 16 - 20104,301 views

photo by alan mercer

More than 10 years ago I listened to a song, sung by a powerful voice. The song was called: All you can eat!
It was such a catchy song. I borrowed the cd and gave it back. But the song… I kept in my head and the name Candye Kane I could not forget.

I kept track of Candye and she’s such a wonderful lady. Not only musically, not only good looking, but kind to the world too. She suffered from a severe illness some years ago, but recovered totally. She’s grateful to be alive, and we’re very happy she’s still here. So, when she told me, she was excited to be included in our online magazine… I thought… no…  I’m the one excited here… talking to Candye herself!

Candye, you came a long way to where you are now as an artist. You were discouraged by your environment to become a singer, but yet you did. Many would not have the strength to continue. How did you do start that journey and what was your biggest inspiration?

I was determined to be a singer even though many said it was an impossible dream. I had a really rough childhood – dad in prison when I was born and mom was mentally unstable and verbally abusive. Singing was one of the few ways I was able to get positive attention from the world and so I had to keep singing for my own self esteem and survival. I also had a son at 17 (he is my drummer now – evan caleb — and I had to find a way to support us thru my songwriting and music. I was really lucky because I grew up in east LA and it was a close car or bus ride to Hollywood. I was around the 80’s hollywood music scene that gave birth to the Blasters, X, Los Lobos, Rosie Flores, Jim Lauderdale, James Intveld and Dwight Yoakum. They are all friends of mine and they all offered support and suggestions when I was a young struggling singer. I was inspired by the sheer need to survive. And I’m stubborn. I just believed I could become famous by being a pin up girl who became a singer. People laughed at me sometimes but I had the last laugh. I have been in the pages of Hustler, am in the Taschen coffee table book – the big book of breasts and have appeared at blues and rockabilly festivals worldwide. I used the sex business to become successful as a singer. The money I made for photos paid for good musicians and demos and the punk rock anarchy era and creative freedom of the time gave me a lot of room to ne myself and to keep at it.  I also knew that in order to survive my upbringing, I needed to find a way to keep doing what I loved, writing songs and making music. 

My first band was haywire with Damon Kaye and Lissa James. We did a bunch of my songs, plus Janis Martin, Wanda Jackson, Elvis, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn. It was just rhythm guitar and string bass. Then I sang with Jumpin Jerry Sikorski and American Patrol. From Jerry I did my first studio sessions and met some awesome musicians, ray campi, colin winski, rose maddox,  bruce hamblin. Then eventually I started my own country band – the armadillo stampede with will ray and ken jacobs. We played the palomino and club lingerie and a bunch of la clubs. We were included on the town south of bakersfield part ii compilation with jim lauderdale, rosie and james. We had a record deal in 1986 with cbs epic but cbs dropped me when I wouldnt lose weight and change everything about myself. I married the bass player from the paladins, thomas yearsley – moved to san diego and we had a son together.  

I eventually turned to blues after I started sitting in with Joe Liggins and the Honey Drippers. Joe was a great piano player and taught me a lot about musicianship and how to run a band. I loved that jump blues and california swing sound and always loved how the blasters were able to integrate blues and rockabilly and swing into one cohesive sound. I wanted to try that. 

You really care for the community. You work on united by music, for people with a disability, and you really want kids to get to know more jazz and blues music. Are there other groups of people (or maybe even nature, animals etc) you would like to help with music?

I have been an activist for a long time – I work a lot for the glbt communities and champion the rights of the transgendered. I lost a wonderful drag queen friend who used to sing with me onstage. Robert Tiny Gibson. He was brutally murdered in El Cajon in 1995 (stabbed 36 times after giving sex to a john in a car.) His loss affected my life in immeasurable ways and so I feel it’s my mission to speak out for transgendered people – and especially gay and lesbian sex workers. Tiny was a sometime prostitute and many people didn’t understand his lifestyle but he was a beautiful person and didn’t deserve to die in such a tragic way. No one deserves that kind of end.  

I am an activist for tolerance and equality in all forms. I have also been active in the large sized community even though I lost 100 lbs to cancer two years ago. I have always been a big girl and discouraged and even ridiculed for how I look. So I feel it’s important to let people know that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Being a large sized, bisexual, teenage mom sex worker myself makes me more compassionate to all disenfranchised people. My charity for the disabled is born of that compassion. I was always told I wouldn’t be successful at music by mainstream record companies but I was given a network of success because of all my hollywood musician friends. I try and give that back with my charity

We give people a chance to learn about blues music and songwriting. We do auditions and let the best ones perform blues, swing and rockabilly with an american swing band. Its great to give people a chance to make music on equal footing with “so called normal” musicians. The disabled are always told why they cant achieve their dreams. I believe that they can achieve whatever they wish and I give them the chance to do that. I think we get back what we give to the universe. So when I am able to help others thru my music or my voice, I am grateful and blessed for the opportunity.

United by music is also awesome for us “so called normal” musicians. We learn a lot about ourselves by helping others — how to put our own egos on hold. How to be more generous and inclusive. Its more about what makes us the same – not what makes us different. Its about non-judgment and inclusion.

What advice would you like to give your fellow musicians on this area?

(See above) I think especially in rockabilly communities where many of us are into cool old cars, and groovy vintage style clothing, tattoos, hairdos — we tend to judge those who don’t have those things or don’t look as cool as we do. I think It’s important to think about ways that we are the same instead of the obvious ways we are different. We love the same music. We love the same styles. Just because some of us look cooler than others doesn’t mean we are better or more important or cooler people, inside. And any time we bring happiness and success to others, we are rewarded by the universe. Kindness and compassion are reciprocal. The blessings and returns don’t always come back to us thru the same people we help. Sometimes the blessings come from another source. I just try to be friendly, kind, supportive and compassionate to everyone I encounter and I believe the world gives me the same treatment back most of the time.

How is thomas by the way? Did he recover well from his accident?

Thomas is awesome. What a fighter! He is walking fine again and back to work. We had thanksgiving together this year and it dawned me how both of my sons almost lost both their parents in the last year. I had pancreatic cancer and Tom got hit by a train! It’s just incredible that we are both still alive and I was so happy that my boys were there to share thanksgiving with both of their parents.

If you would record a duet, who would you sing with?

Ooohh do you mean living or dead? Well, I would love to make a record with Bob Moore (a team nashville bass player.) I am good friends with Bob and Kittra Moore and we have been talking about making a record together for years.  I love singing country and western and I hope to be able to make a country record one day soon. I would love to sing with gorgeous James Hunter. We  played together in Amsterdam and he was amazing! James Intveld and I have been friends a long time and have never sung together. I would also love to sing with Dave Stuckey and we have been talking about this alot lately. Wayne Hancock or Jim Lauderdale would be fun too. Rosie Flores and Karling Abbeygate and  I have been talking about doing a Boswell Sisters tribute at some point so I hope that can happen. Would be fun to sing a song with Dave Alvin. He plays on a lot of my cds and has produced me but we’ve never sung together on a recording. It’s always an honor to sing with Big Sandy. I recorded a duet with him on my diva la grande record. He’s the best singer and songwriter around. Love him.

Can you tell us a funny story about one of your (many many) gigs?

I’ve got a picture of me sitting on Jerry lee lewis’s lap. I opened for the killer in no Hollywood at the Palomino in 1984. I was so lucky to get to get on Jerry Lees bus. I asked his wife if I could take a picture with him. She said “I don’t give a shit.” so I sat on his lap and he kept staring at my boobs and rubbing my thighs. Finally his wife said “okay thats enough – now get the fuck off.” pretty hilarious.

That is hilarious indeed Candye. ;-p

After the interview I wanted to ask if she would call herself a spiritual person. And I don’t necessarily mean it in a religious way. But the quote at the end of her emails says enough:

When we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success”
– Deepak Chopra

There is a stage play about Candye’s life called The Toughest Girl Alive. It opens at the Moxie Theater on Jan 15 – Feb 6th in San Diego.
It is based on her memoir of the same name and has 23 original songs. It chronicles her troubled beginnings and how strength is always inside us when we need it most…

One Response to “Candye Kane about her journey to success”

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