Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Rock Around the Biological Clock

By Margaret Moser

MAY 10, 1999:  Karen Sexton, luminous and quite pregnant, stopped by the table at Guero's, where Lucinda Williams was lunching the Monday after South by Southwest 99. The perfect-blonde model of maternity, Sexton radiated good health and the glow of incipient motherhood as father-to-be Charlie waved hello nearby.

"Can I touch?" asked Williams, holding out her hand out. Sexton smiled affirmatively and Lucinda rested her hand on the taut swell of the young woman's belly. "Wow," said the 46-year-old Williams admiringly, her voice wistful. "I guess my time has passed."

Williams' live-in sweetheart of several years, bass player Richard "Hombre" Price, murmured kind words; he has a daughter from a previous marriage, making his partner a kind of occasional common-law stepmother. Something in Williams' expression, however, said she knew that she was more likely to hold Grammys than babies. The singer is likely to be on the road for the next year or so promoting her award-winning and acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. It's a schedule which includes 30 dates with Tom Petty, at least one trip to Europe, shed tours, festivals, radio and record store appearances, nightly gigs, and non-stop press, not to mention the inevitable plans for the next album. Even if the time were right, could she walk away from it just just to answer the ultimate call of Mother Nature?

Every female musician who ever strummed an instrument, tapped a mike, or fine-tuned a lyric has wondered whether or not children fit into their pursuit of music. For women working in what's still a man's man's man's world, it's a loaded question with ambiguous answers. The challenge of maintaining a career in music and being a mother is unusually delicate and complex. Motherhood is a full-time occupation, yet so many women in this country work more from financial necessity than choice of career. Isn't bearing children and pursuing a personally and artistically gratifying career what all the women's magazines trumpet as "having it all"?

But "having it all" is a double-edged blade. Just ask the working women of America, still significantly underpaid on the scale of the male salary dollar. In the economically unstable business of music, "having it all" encompasses even more unique considerations. Traditional advice for women balancing children and a career usually applies to the 9 to 5 business world and rarely to the female musician. For many women faced with the decision of whether or not to become pregnant, "having it all" generally means only taking part of it.

How do some women balance motherhood and a musical career? Both require care and cultivation, dedication and devotion, and neither leaves time for anything unrelated. At the very least, having a baby requires that music take a back seat for a period of time. This is something that has always flummoxed men -- the notion that women can be devoted to something like music, then stop to have children, then resume playing. If instincts can be maternal, then the ability to juggle jobs comes with them.

Why do some women choose a career and not children? Being a diva with diapers just isn't a dream for many of them. Bands often serve as extended families, but for most women the pursuit of artistic freedom alone is enormously fulfilling. It's also highly demanding of time and personal commitment; more than one female musician has unabashedly called her decision not to have children "totally selfish."

The questions seemed worth asking, so we contacted 10 female musicians, some of them with children, some not, varying in age and generational circumstance; some came of age in the Fifties, when they were expected to marry and raise families, while others were post baby boomers who were told they didn't have to have children. The talk was of the biological urge to motherhood, and whether children did or didn't fit into their careers in music. Where relevant, they discussed performing while pregnant, babies and touring, taking kids "to work." One thing common to all those interviewed was the assertion of how important it is for a child to understand their mother's love and devotion for music. Some acknowledged that musical genres such as folk or singer-songwriter were more conducive to having kids. Marcia Ball pointed out that "most of these women are bandleaders, fronting bands" as opposed to "sidemen," and that the spotlight itself comes with its own set of rules.

Here's something else. This one subject alone, by its intimate nature, is as revealing about the women interviewed as any broad-spectrum interview designed to profile them. The idea of motherhood, not just the act, is something that exists in all women, and all women speculate about this part of their biology if only, as Meg Hentges seemed to sum up so concisely, to say "no, thanks" or more bluntly, like Lou Ann Barton, "no."


Yes Sir, That's My Baby

Sara Hickman, 36, first established herself as a singer-songwriter in Dallas before moving to Austin in the early Nineties. Her increasingly more frequent gigs please her myriad fans, passionate about Hickman's thoughtful, pop- and rock-edged compositions. It was sweetly characteristic of her current priorities when Hickman asked if she could call back later, after her daughter went to sleep.


Sara Hickman

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

It wasn't a planned pregnancy, so it was like, "Wow" -- a big learning process. I continued to perform up to the eighth month. One of the last things I did was sing the National Anthem at the Cotton Bowl for World Cup Soccer. I went out looking like Mama Cass -- I was huge. They even had a doctor there in case I went into labor.

I opened for Robert Fripp a few weeks ago, and my daughter saw me perform. She stood at the front of the stage and put her arms out and just stared up at me. I felt really honored, really excited, because I wanted to do a good show to show her how much I loved what I was doing. My fiancé said it was really cool watching her watch the people in the audience watch me.

Taking her on tour was good for her confidence level. Plus, I always took my mom or one of the women who was at the birth ceremony, so she grew up around the people who were at her birth. I took this little pup tent wherever we went. I'd just put blankets and pillows inside and I'd put her in there. It had little mesh windows so lots of air flowed through. I'd put her in there and she'd go right to sleep because she knew the tent. She travels amazingly well.

I just wanted to say there are lots of benefits to this; I can't think of the negatives. I want the other musicians out there who might be struggling with family or friends to know that you can have a healthy and probably more advanced child because of this lifestyle. It's not detrimental unless the parent isn't being responsible and falls prey to that lifestyle.

It's even been proven that while the baby is aware of the father and family members, in the first couple of years it's really about the mother. I'm gonna get shit for saying this, I can feel it already, but it's nature's way. Only one has to nurse, only one of them is the lifeblood for that baby, at least for the first couple of years. The child clings to the mother, the child bonds to the mother, especially nursing. I nursed a long time -- two years. I nursed her everywhere I went on tour, practically walking onstage. She went everywhere with me when she wasn't with her dad.

After she was born, a month or two, I put her in the middle of the bed, with all these pillows around her. Then I picked up my guitar and sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her. I felt really humble. The most humble I'd ever felt in my life. I felt like the little drummer boy going to see Jesus. I thought, all I have is my guitar and my song to give to you, my gift. She really makes me want to be my best.

I took my daughter onstage with me at Kerrville when she was about one-and-a-half. She had slept through my show on the arm of one of my really good friends. As I finished my set, I got a standing ovation and people were clapping. The applause startled her and she woke up. I saw her on the side of the stage start crying and left the stage to hold her. Rod Kennedy came over and said, "You have to go back out -- you got a standing ovation."

"I can't go back out," I told Rod, "My daughter needs me and she's upset."

"Well, you have to do something," he said.

So I looked at her and said, "Okay we're going on the stage together and I'm going to sing your lullaby."

We walked to the mike and I said, "I really appreciate this. It's a really moving moment for me, but the applause woke up my daughter. So for my encore, bear with me while I sing a lullaby I wrote for her and I ask you please refrain from clapping." I sang this song I wrote for her a capella and she just laid her little head on my shoulder and fell back asleep. When I finished the song, I could feel the way everyone was connected and on the edge of tears. I put my finger to my lips to say "shhhhhh" and walked offstage. It was so quiet I could hear the crickets.

The next day so many people told me how moving it was and thanks for reminding them to take time with their own son or daughter. That moment was one of the highlights of my career -- that I got to share a moment with my daughter and with all those people, and that they all understood that she was most important at that moment. I really appreciated it.


Dana Smith, 35. The former bassist for girl garage punk trio Pork married musician Alejandro Escovedo, and when her critically lauded band broke up she found she preferred the mommy track to recording tracks. Smith was holding her five-month old daughter as she talked, the accompanying coos and gurgles soothing -- appropriate given Smith's direct, unapologetic answers.


Dana Smith

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

I gave birth to two, a son, seven, and a daughter, five months, and [am stepmother] to two daughters, eight and 17. There was no pressure to have kids, but I grew up with five kids in my family -- youngest! And I've always liked big families and having a lot of people around.

I might not be so good to write about because I'm not doing anything with music now. It was too much for me. I was in a punk rock band and I'd be looking out going, "What am I doing?" I'd be playing to six people and thinking, "Oh god, I could be home right now with the kids."

I didn't [play "Mommy" with] Pork -- Mary [Hatman] was the one who took care of all the stuff. When you go out on the road it becomes like being in a family. Edith [Casimir] was by far the one we had to take care of. By the way, she's going to have a baby in May. As far as [my future in] the music business, it's pretty much like, not now. You know, it's hard -- Alejandro's a real musician and I was just kinda messing around. I still wanna mess around, but I don't have any time right now.

It's not easier [for male musicians]. I know Alejandro hates leaving for tour every time, but that's all he can do and I can do other stuff. [Laughter] I mean, that's not all he can do, but all he wants to do. It's not easy at all for him. He's missed his daughter's prom two years, he misses birthdays -- and he's a sentimental guy so it bums him out. But, yeah, he's home for Christmas.

I performed up to a week before [giving birth], with the Potatoes at Chances. With my first baby, my son, I wasn't away [from performing] that long, a couple months maybe. He went to Lollapalooza with me when he was six months old. I've taken him into bars when people have been, like, 'Oh, you shouldn't have a baby in a bar, you shouldn't do that. I went, you know, whatever." But I had gigs and he was little, what are you going to do? And yes, I smoked while I was pregnant -- that's really admirable, huh? [Laughter] I got [grief] from Alejandro for it. Yeah, I did.

That thing I was saying about playing in a punk rock club and looking out and about seeing five or six faces? We were on the road, in Pennsylvania and I was on the phone and my son was just beginning to form sentences, and he said, "When are you coming home?" And I sobbed. I was like, "Now! I'm ready to come home. Now." But [Pork] was not happening and that's when I started looking around and going "Ugh." Touring was fine and you can do both -- you can. I just stopped wanting to.

Then again, I had always looked forward to those tours because they got me away, little vacations where I could say, "Alejandro, you do it now." I couldn't have gone on tour without Alejandro saying, "Yeah, go ahead, I'll watch the kids." Sometimes we were on tour together and had friends watch the kids while we were out -- that was lucky. I think it's more of a drag for kids to be on tour when they're older than when they're babies and don't know any better. All you do is drive and sit and drive and sit. It's not like you can take them to see much, not as much fun as you might think. It's just getting there, waiting, and playing.

[With the kids, on the road], you get into stuff you never though you'd get into -- T-ball games -- and it's so much fun. Then you go to a club and think, "Gawd, this is such a waste of time." I mean not completely a waste, but sometimes it just feels like I did a lot of nothing.

I sing to my daughter, she's five months old now. My son is really a huge hip-hop fan. He has tapes and loves to dance and wants turntables so he can deejay, or whatever you call that. Alejandro's daughter was on to me. I'd tell her and my son, "We're gonna go to a party and there'll be birthday cake." And she'd look at me and say, "Is there a band? Are you playing?" She'd be like, "Oh no, I don't want to go to a band thing."

But if they want to play music, I'd tell them, "Do it all."


Marcia Ball, 50, was progressive country before it was cool, but when she returned to her bluesy Louisiana roots in the early Eighties, she hit her stride as a piano player and singer, ever a favorite at New Orleans' Jazz Fest. The day before she left on a week-long tour, she talked about her life in Austin and having raised a son in the cosmic cowboy Seventies.


Marcia Ball

I had my son when I was 26. I didn't plan it any better than I planned any other aspect of my life [laughs].

I try not to overuse the phrase "biological clock," but I did everything when something told me it was time. Something told me it was time to get married -- it was wrong! -- at 20, so I did. At 25, something told me get pregnant, and I did. It just seemed right at that point.

I was hoping to be a musician for life. I wasn't sure if I could and got pregnant the fall after the Firedogs broke up. I was in a state of limbo. I had joined the Bronco Brothers, a real country band playing the Skyline Ballroom, but it wasn't right for me. I didn't want to be a jukebox. I realized I had to start a band so I could call the shots since I wouldn't be able to get on the bus when someone else said to. I had to be able to take the baby with me, and I wanted to be able to do it. So, I started a band and didn't tell them I was pregnant.

Seeing Irma Thomas perform pregnant when I was 13 blew my mind. She was on a big package show in New Orleans, up on stage singing, "You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don't Mess With My Man)," showing and all. That warped me early [laughs]. My other mentor was Carlyne [Majer, president of the Texas Grammys chapter and Ball's former manager]. She used to drive that big old Cadillac of hers out to Soap Creek Saloon when they were still building it, wheeling it in one hand and nursing her son in the other. It was inspiring.

[My son toured with me] until he was about 3. At that point, they know where they are; before that they don't care where they are as long as they're with you. There are things I don't like to think about, situations I put my son in that might have killed him. I had him before the days of seat belts and car seats. He probably traveled 50,000 miles standing in the front seat of a van. Untethered. Standing. I look at this big ol' hunk of a guy now and think, "I was given a gift." I did it ignorantly, not deliberately -- just stand him up in the car or throw him in the back of the pickup truck or station wagon and off we'd go.

And here's what I tell anyone who's considering motherhood and any kind of career: I had a great support system. I still give credit to my in-laws. The thing my mother-in-law asked [when I divorced] was, "Please don't take him away from us," and there's no way I could. If you ask my son now to name in order of his affections who ranks where and he said his grandmother first, it would neither upset nor surprise me. I couldn't have done it without them. For all those years I mostly played on weekends, not at all the way I work or travel now. Entirely a weekend warrior, maybe two or three trips a year for two weeks to the Midwest, but weekends mostly. And on the weekends, his dad would take him out to his parents, in the country -- the perfect, farm-living, doting grandparents who just adored him, and who he adored.

I scheduled to take two weeks off before he was born and a month off after. He was two weeks late, so I had about a month before he was born and my first gig about two weeks after. Eight weeks later, we went to Louisiana, and he went too. Of course, I was going to my mom's, but he was ever adaptable. Babies are more flexible than you think and you can withstand a certain amount of pain when it comes to the nursing thing.

When I married Gordon [Fowler], he had three kids, but then I had someone else to help too. He's part of that support system, too, and the bigger it is, the better off you are. I know lots of good single fathers whose responsibility doesn't stop at infancy or childhood. The teen years are when they really need supervision. No matter how much things change, though, I think the mother is the primary caregiver.

We talk about those "times." My son was born in 1975, in Austin. And that was a hard time, with all the temptations going around, people with substances that were less than healthy. I missed a lot of that, and I'm glad! A lot of that had to do with the fact that I'd moved to the country and had a baby, so I wasn't hanging out after hours -- at the AusTex Lounge or wherever. I regret there are people and places I don't know well because of it, like Steve Dean. [cf: Lou Ann Barton] Everybody's supposed to know Steve Dean! I know him now, but I just missed all that. [laughs]

I will be the first to say, I am lucky. I have been blessed.


Charlene Hancock, 60, plays keyboard bass with daughters Conni and Traci in the Texana Dames, sometimes joined by siblings Joaquin and Holli, and the family patriarch, her husband Tommy. Their music is its own kind of World Music, encompassing country, swing, rock, Tejano, folk, and just about anything else imaginable. "The family that plays together" is more than just an adage here; it's the real thing.


Charlene Hancock, Traci Lamar, and Conni Hancock

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

Tommy and I have four children, he has four others, so I have four stepchildren. I count them, too.

I hadn't planned to raise babies. Really. I either wanted to be a beauty operator or a movie star -- in entertainment some way. And I never played with baby dolls or anything, but when my first child came, I just loved it. It was just one of those things. I had no plans for a baby, but I loved it.

Any woman in a band is looked to, though, [as a mother figure]. Tommy was always the daddy role, the bandleader. Even when the kids played with us, he was the leader, the one that called the shots and I supported that. So as the family started playing together, those roles were defined already. I found the children listened to us better, paid closer attention than other musicians who were technically more proficient but independent. In the Supernatural Family Band, the band the kids were in with us, they all got to express their individuality, which was important. One would sing Stevie Wonder songs and one would do rock & roll, and they dressed any way they wanted.

We told them we'd support any music they wanted to do, pay for lessons or instruments, but they didn't show interest until we got out to that log cabin in New Mexico. We had no electricity, no TV, no radio -- they had to make their own entertainment. By that time, the youngest was about nine, the oldest 15. Neither Tommy nor I pushed them into anything, but they were around it all the time -- I sang while I was pregnant. I was seven months along and then quit to have my babies. Two months old and I'd be back singing.

Thank goodness both sets of grandparents were there to support us and help. For the early years when the kids were small, Tommy and I played in or around Lubbock on weekends. During the week we were both home with them, so that was cool. It allowed us to be with them in a quality way.

I really am an advocate of kids being at the gigs, now. When our kids first started playing, I thought, "Wait, I'm taking them into nightclubs and places you don't usually take kids." Tommy immediately pointed out to me, "But they're with their parents. Do you want them to learn that from their friends or their parents?"

And I do think kids and music go so well together, it seems like a real natural thing, although I draw the line at certain places. Certain hardcore places, late at night. It would make me sad to see a young mother who obviously hadn't had enough fun, wanting to be out, and the little ones tagging along. That was always hard to see. But of course we moved to town and started playing the Shorthorn Lounge. Thank goodness, the kids were old enough to handle it -- that place! But Tommy and I were united in the things we wanted our kids to be around. If there was something weird happened, we were able to get in the van, drive home, and talk about it. And we had some pretty lively discussions in that van!

These days my daughters and I take on that "Mom" role for the players. It's just the women in us. It's hard for a woman to be a bandleader, she has to stick to her guns, be true to herself, allow herself to be called certain things, and it's not quite natural.

Protection. It's the first thing on a mother's mind. At the same time, if you protect a child too much you cheat them of learning about the world, so there's got to be a balance. They have to learn how to deal with the world. I think my kids learned to deal with the world in the band, because we were in all kinds of situations and they had to think on their feet. That was real good for them, but real hard to watch as a parent. Let them make their own decisions -- it's their life, I always felt real strongly about that. Young adults especially need it to know who they are. Parenting is not easy anytime, but it becomes hard when you know you have to back off and let them be who they are.

We do have a private side. There's a public and a private side and things we don't share with everybody. I feel strongly about privacy and I think most performers do, because you have to make that privacy happen. The person who isn't in the public eye doesn't have to worry so much about privacy. And we don't need to be spilling the beans on each other. [Laughs]

The happy family is a dream, a fantasy. A happy family, it seems to me, is a family that's able to talk to each other and work through things. That's the fortunate side of our business, because music makes you happy, makes you feel good. And work went with it, but we were there for the fun.



Oh No, Not My Baby

Rebecca Cannon, 29, draws on some of her psycho-pixie performance in mid-Nineties alt-darlings Sincola for her new stint as the thoroughly engaging lead vocalist for her self-titled band, Rebecca Cannon. The youngest of all those interviewed, Cannon's curious innocence spoke for itself, charming and forthright as her music.


Rebecca Cannon

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

Right now, I wouldn't want to bring a kid into the world. I know that's a cliched thing to say, but it's not a priority of mine at all. Maybe in my mid-30s, if I meet the right person, but I am too self-absorbed to take care of someone else. I am too into my music and don't think I could divide my energy very well. I have a dog I have to take care of. I bring him to rehearsals and he runs around and that's fine, but I can't imagine bringing a baby to rehearsal.

I would have to put music on the back burner and right now it's on the front burner. I make a lot of sacrifices for it, like not taking a corporate job. They have to get straight jobs when they have a kid and sacrifice almost everything for at least the first couple of years. I go out almost every night. I like my lifestyle, and I don't want to change it. Your 20s and 30s are a prime time for creating art. And I sometimes wonder what the heck I'm doing, in my late 20s, waiting tables and it's all for doing the music thing.

I have a few friends with kids. Like Annie [Melvin] does a great amount of work in the music industry. I admire her! Two kids, works on the LMNOP conference, BMI, and Mother Rock Star, and I still see her out at shows. I don't see how she does it. Of course, it's more the industry side, more like balancing work and kids, not playing in bands, but it's still amazing.

Bands are like being in a marriage, but in Sincola, Terri [Lord] was more the "mother." I kind of "mommied" [my previous band] Scarlitt. In Scarlitt, I booked all the shows, made all the posters. I did get help, but I did so much of the work, the business end. And with any person fronting the band and doing the work, you do feel responsible for everyone's happiness.

Some of my first songs in Sincola were about my mother. My mother died in '94 on Christmas and we had a New Year's show where I played "Rundown." There's a line, "My mother died and now I'm kissing everyone," because I kind of went crazy with grief.

We weren't that close. She had a bad drug addiction and she was never there for me. Never. My whole life she was really messed up on drugs, which is why I think I severely needed some outlet, really needed something in my life to get that out. And I never had a dad, either. I think it has a lot to do with why I play music -- there's this huge void and to get onstage fills that void. Like you never get over something so you're driven to be creative -- you have to get it out. There are a lot of mother themes in my songs. I think a lot of musicians had dysfunctional childhoods and maybe why they're not having babies.

My grandmother was the matriarch for me. I moved out when I was 15 because my mom flipped out on me, and I moved in with Grandma. She's seventysomething years old and I just saw her last week. She always told me, drilled this in my head, "Becky, you don't have to have a baby. My generation, we thought we had to. Your mother's generation, they thought they had to. But your generation, you don't have to." She's told me that since I was a teenager.

I have never had an abortion for my career -- it would be a really difficult choice. I don't know what I would do if I got pregnant. I know some who say they would get an abortion, they end up having babies. I would consider it definitely, but would rather cross that road when I came to it. You never know. That's why I keep really safe with the Pill, even though I don't support it because it's terrible for you, but that's how much I believe in not having a baby. I don't want to take that risk.


Gretchen Phillips, 35, was interviewed by e-mail, but it was still easy to hear her eloquently opinionated voice when reading back her comments. A native Texan, Phillips made her name in the lesbian avant-garde as founder of Two Nice Girls and Meat Joy in Austin in the Eighties. In the early Nineties, she moved to San Francisco briefly before returning here, and is currently in New York writing and performing with Dusty Trails, featuring Vivian Trimble (ex-Luscious Jackson) and Josephine Wiggs (ex-Breeders). Phillips swears she will record with her beloved Austin band, Lord Douglas Phillips, in July.


Gretchen Phillips

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

I am definitely childless by choice, but the fact that I'm a lesbian and can't just get pregnant in any thoughtless way is surely a contributing factor. And the fact that we don't have parthenogenesis down yet so that I could actually have a child that shares my lover's and my DNA is also a factor. I romantically and vainly want a love child or none at all.

In my 20s and younger, I was very driven about my music career. I had certain cherished, concrete goals that I wanted to meet and I wouldn't allow anything to distract me. I want to travel a lot, both on tour and for pleasure. When I'm away from my cat, I miss her terribly, to the point where I see her little head floating in space, smiling at me, mewing the question, "When are you coming home?" An actual human child could say those words out loud to me over the phone while I'm about to open for Cibo Matto in Belize, and it would harsh my high. I'd be torn. I don't want to be torn, if I can help it.

My parents had a band and they would practice at our house every week and I hated it a lot. I hated how engrossed they'd get in their music. I was resentful and I imagine that I would have a child who would share my selfish sentiments and be upset by my attention to my music. I just don't want to go out of my way to make that jealous dynamic happen. I don't handle being around jealousy very well at all. That's why I'm such a serial monogamist.

I'm not sure if I ever feel that my bands are substitute kids, but I definitely think that a family dynamic is created. Maybe I see one of my bandmates as acting like my sister or my mom or dad. One always has to be mindful of recognizing that that assumption or confusion is going on, and to remember that in reality they are not your sister, mom, or dad. They are adults you chose to play music with. It can be tough to sort through, though. I think bands require you to remain emotionally flexible because of the intimate nature of the work.

My mother's attitude has everything to do with why I don't have kids. I got the message that my mom would have pursued her painting if she hadn't had us kids. However fundamentally distressed that may be, based on that, I made a link between having kids and not having a full-time artistic life. And more than anything, I want a full-time artistic life.

The other side of this coin is that I passionately feel that kids deserve to be their parents' primary focus. This also is residue from my mom. She stayed at home and raised us for as long as she could afford to do that. And I feel that I really benefited from her undivided attention for as long as I had it. Those are the standards that I have for raising a child, however unrealistic.

Also, my mom is a big worrier about us kids and I know I would carry that with me and pass it on to my child as well. Who needs it? Stop the insanity! I would have to do so much counseling to be a fit mother and I'd rather counsel on my art and my interactions with adults. That said, I am a very devoted aunt. I think that role is best for me. All the good stuff, none of the discipline.

The one thing I would change if I could change anything is that I would like to bear a child. I don't really want to carry one. But I've always been interested in shooting one out of my vagina. It just blows me away that the vagina can stretch to the point of accommodating an entire child. I know it's extremely painful; I just watched my sister give birth. But it's just so weird I'd like to do it. But I won't, because then I'd be super-attached to the child and I'd have to raise it, and whoa, that's just not in the plan.


Lou Ann Barton, 45, has been more active performance-wise than recording-wise the last few years, which is too bad; she's got stage presence to burn and her only three studio recordings reveal timeless songs. The Fort Worth native who fronted Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble prototype, Triple Threat Revue, delivers ever-more incendiary shows these days and offered her views backstage at Antone's and by phone.


Lou Ann Barton

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

I don't think I ever thought I had to have a baby. I don't think it was ever in my mind.

I had an aunt who didn't have any children. She said not because she didn't try [laughs], but ... it was kind of appealing to me. Maybe when I was a little girl, I thought I wanted a baby, like children do. I had friends who couldn't wait to have a baby. But I never felt that way. I don't think I was born to have any.

I think with all the shit I went through as a young kid -- not like my life was so horrible -- but my father leaving and all those things that hurt me when I was a little girl, I don't think I wanted to chance that hurt with anybody else. I just wouldn't want to put anyone through that misery. [Had I had a baby], I don't know if I would have been an alcoholic. But I don't have any patience to this day, so I don't think that would be good.

[My bands] were never a substitute family, I just never wanted children. I didn't need somebody to take care of, it was just never in my mind. Never.

All the girls I used to run with -- Julie [Speed], Diana [Ray], Connie [Vaughan] -- we just weren't interested in having kids. I think I'm more like a guy, to tell you the truth -- just the way men are. I don't know, I've always been like one of the guys. It's just the business, I guess. Now, Sue Foley, she wants a career, but she always wanted to have children. So she had that baby and like when she did a gig at Antone's with me a few weeks ago, she just flew in, did the gig, and left because that's as long as she'd be away from him.

I was talking to Marcia Ball the other night at Carlos & Charlie's and a girl walked up to me and said, "Remember me? I used to be a waitress at the Rome Inn." And I just looked at Marcia. The Rome Inn? Good lord. Mike Buck and I had been talking about how those were the most fun days of our lives, before everything got ugly with drugs and addictions. And Marcia said, "Well, you know Lou, I just missed out on all that. I had Luke. You know -- you came over one night and slept on his superhero sheets. I don't even know Steve Dean." [cf: Marcia Ball] She was never at the AusTex Lounge or the Rome Inn because she had her son. Marcia missed all the madness, being a mother. I remember playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans with Stevie, and seeing Carlyne [Majer] and Marcia with their babies in strollers, back when Carlyne was managing Marcia. I don't know what made me think of that.

I did get pregnant when I was 20. Had an abortion -- didn't want a child! Got pregnant again, had another abortion -- didn't want a kid! Never was a career thing. If I'd just been a regular girl, who wanted to fall in love and get married and didn't have singing as a goal, I might have had kids. But I wasn't that kind of girl. Like my two sisters, they're just regular gals. They were married, got jobs, and had babies. I think I was just born a singer and not a mother. I just wanted to be a singer, an artist.


Lavelle White, ageless, comes from the golden age of Houston big-band R&B in the Fifties, having been signed to the seminal Duke Records label. She carries the class and polish of those show days well into the Nineties, and cites her most recent album, It Haven't Been Easy, as her philosophy in life. "I am outspoken," she said on the phone. Indeed, she is.


Lavelle White

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

It wasn't anything I decided not to do, I just didn't think of having kids. I don't think it ever crossed my mind, because it would have been too hard for me -- raising kids and running all over the world. I wouldn't have wanted other people to do the mothering while I was out. I would have wanted to be there for a child at all times. And I couldn't.

Another reason I didn't have kids is because I was married twice. One was a real cheater and it wasn't no use for me to stay there and go through those changes. A marriage is an agreement, not just a one-way thing. Right now, I'm older, and I don't go through changes because life is too short. You go through changes every day, why should you go through it with a man in your home? Try to straighten it out, if you can't, break away.

What is really happening to our kids now is that the mother is not there, or the father is not there because they have to work, to make ends meet to put them through school, put them through college. The kids, when the parents aren't around, they get the feeling no one cares -- like what just happened in Colorado. I think there's more to kids needing their parents around than a lot of people realize. But if the kid has a revelation that the mother or father can't be there, something in the kid goes wrong. They get into gangs or other situations that turn into something destructive. But from when its born until at least five or six, the mother's got to be there or the kid won't understand what's happening.

Kids need all the attention they can get. This world today is so fast and so swift and there are so many things people get kids into, like this [Internet] thing -- these things need to be stopped! There needs to be an end put to all of this stuff. Kids online, men calling 13-year-old girls trying to get dates with them, and all this, this needs to be stopped! There needs to be an end put to this, and the person who started this [Internet] needs to clean it up.

It's really complicated, it hurts me. It's like those two little kids they found dead, and I wonder just what kind of person would do a baby like that. It hurts me to my heart. I can hardly eat for thinking and praying, "God please bring to focus and have these people punished." If they're not crazy, they need help. Why would those little babies have to die? They're just babies. Babies are so precious to me -- something to love. I love kids with all my heart and soul.

This is what I'm saying about human beings: We need to take time to look into the other person's feelings, the kids' feelings, the babies' feelings. If we would just take more time with people and show our love for them graciously, I think a lot of this [violence] would stop.

I would tell ladies, I don't think you should have kids and a career. Have your career, but don't wait til you get 35, 40, to have kids because that's too old. And [if you do], stay with them 'til they're at least four years old, then explain to them what you got to do. Explain to them you're going out to sing and play or whatever you do. Let them know this is your living, something that you chose, something you love. I don't think a lady ought to have babies and be out there entertaining. I think she ought to be home with the kids.

We women are vulnerable. We get lonely and weak in our lives and we get careless. But we have to keep our guard up. Now that I'm older, I definitely keep my guard up. This is the way I see life and I'm outspoken about it.



Maybe Baby, I'll Have You

Carrie Clark, 30, escaped a crash-and-burn bout with drugs and cleaned up a year ago. As guitarist-vocalist-songwriter for the modern-day psychedelic rangers Sixteen Deluxe, she simply shines onstage, and after another narrow escape, this one with a major label, she's as adamant about her independent musical status as she is her desire to be a mother. Clark talked at Guero's, animated in her responses and endearingly bright-eyed.


Carrie Clark

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

Do I hear the biological clock? Loud. I can hear it over Chris [Smith's] guitar. I wanna have kids. I'd like to have them before 40, so I've got some time to play with and a lot can happen in that time.

It's kind of a scary prospect. I'm going to be 30 soon, and if I were to get pregnant right now, it would really come down to, do I want to be a mom or a musician? Even the language is fucked: "Blowing off a career for a kid." The kind of mom I envision myself as, I'd take at least three years off. There's no way I'd take a two-year-old in the Sixteen Deluxe van to clubs like Emo's across America. I wouldn't want that for my child, but I do want that for me.

Band or motherhood. It would be that black-and-white. I mean, I'm single right now and I've always dreamed of having kids. When I was in high school, I envisioned myself as having kids by now. I always worked well with kids, babysat, and was into the idea of having kids while my sister was like the career girl. My sister has two kids now, two of my best friends have children. In my circle of friends I hang out with outside the music scene, a lot of them have kids. So I look close at the responsibility of my friends with kids, and realistically, I don't think I could do what I want to do musically and be a mom. It wouldn't be fair to myself or the kid. Maybe I'm real off the mark here, but my band image, my persona, whatever you call it, is not one of Carrie Clark with a baby on her hip. I'm a tomboy or whatever.

When Sixteen Deluxe formed, babies were the furthest thing from my mind. If I decided to have a baby because I wanted a baby, there is no doubt in my mind the guys would be incredibly supportive. I'm not saying they wouldn't be disappointed that I'm gonna not tour for three years. It's hard to say what I'd do, but they'd be supportive, even if Sixteen Deluxe had to make three double albums with baby noises in the background and sonogram sounds panned to the left. I'm real lucky. They'd be into it.

I'm stepping out on shaky ground here, but when I took a month to go into rehab, the timing for the band was critical. We had a five-week tour booked with Spoon and were supposed record a video for "Purple." And I didn't have a choice if I was going to live or die. I needed to go to a hospital and get well. You have to do what you have to do at the time. Same thing with having a baby. It's a life decision like, "I'm gonna go into rehab, fuck what everyone else thinks -- I'm gonna save my life." Or, "This is a life decision -- I'm going to have a child."

I would not be comfortable with someone bringing their child to our show. I would be worried. If I saw a kid younger than seven, my mommy wannabe instincts would be freaking out. What's he doing here? It's too loud, it's too smoky, it's too crowded. There's a bunch of freaks on mushrooms moshing. I wanna stage-dive and I don't wanna land on him. I would alter my performance to protect that kid -- I think I've done it before. It just freaks me out to see kids at bars. Places like Emo's and the Electric Lounge -- great for 18-year-olds, bad for eight-year-olds.

What I see in the next year or two for Sixteen Deluxe is being on a good indie. Gone are the ideas of a radio hit. No more grooming the hit, no more picking the producer to polish it. We know how we're going to be touring -- in our Ford van. We don't always stay in hotels, we mostly stay with friends. To me, it's an issue of safety. I know what goes on in rock clubs and I wouldn't want my little girl busting in on some weird scene in the bathroom, or backstage. I'm not saying that about the clubs, it's just the shit that happens at rock shows. I wouldn't want my impressionable child exposed to it. I'm not expecting a tour bus anytime soon.



We Are Family

Meg Hentges, 38, first claimed she had "nothing to offer" on the subject and then delivered extraordinary insight. Also a former member of Two Nice Girls, Hentges currently fronts her own four-piece band, whose brash muscle is reminiscent of the Stones and everything after as evidenced on her recent CD, Brompton's Cocktail. On the phone, Hentges admits she stays quite busy on tour, too busy for even a pet, she confesses, much less a baby.


Meg Hentges

photograph by Todd V. Wolfson

I felt pressure when I was growing up [to have kids]. Not from my parents, but from society. I felt like "reproduction" was a part of what I was doing here and supposed to be doing here. I remember a lot of pressure to have kids and feeling timid about telling people maybe I didn't want a kid.

When I was in my 20s, it was liberating for me to say, "Well, I'm not going to have a kid." At first, it was a reaction against all that pressure from society to have a child. But I threw that off with my religion. I thought it was a feminist statement to not want to have a child. I didn't think it was the most important thing I could be doing.

I think I'm too old now to have kids, but I would have made a great mom. I mean, I'm not menopausal, but I think it's a little late in life. I have a lot of patience for kids, but you tell yourself, "Well, when I have the money and the time ..." And of course in the music industry, you never have either one. There is no money and then you're gone on tour. I couldn't even have a puppy; I talked about it so much and then I realized, I can't have one.

I don't want to speak for my mom's personal life, but most of our mothers didn't really choose. And my mom made it very clear that I had a choice. My mom was a very liberated woman and I think she looked back and saw how horrible it was for her that she didn't have that choice. It's not that I think she didn't want me, it's that she didn't get a chance to decide. So she emphasized to me that I needed to own my own life. Maybe she scared me into it a little. [laughter]

And I guess I have some regrets. Most of my friends have kids and when I see them with their kids, I do feel regret, but I don't see how it could ever fit into my lifestyle. Most of my female friends are musicians or involved in the music industry, and certainly a lot of gay women have children. For a lot of women [performing and child rearing] are impossible, and once you have a kid there is no choice. You know what you have to do when it gets too hard.

I have a friend with a four-year-old boy, and just watching what she's had to go through for him, I wonder, do I have that in me or not? I guess I'm never going to test it, but I can look at her and sometimes feel inadequate. I see all the sacrifices she made and wonder, am I a giving enough person? It makes you doubt yourself. I think a lot of my friends just got pregnant and realized later how much was required and maybe I thought too long and hard about it. Maybe you can think yourself right out of it.

I do think about adoption, that if the future held any kind of success maybe it would be something I could do because I do love children so much and think I would be a good parent. But then it gets back to, if I had the money and the time. I mean, if you really really want a kid bad enough you can work them in like Chrissie Hynde. Maybe that betrays something about me that I didn't work it in.


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