Drama Queens readers have heard many things about Rev. Mary’s exciting cabaret tour of GRANNY’S BLUE-MERS: bawdy Blues from Back-in-the-Day, culminating where it all began at the Duplex Cabaret theater on Saturday, April 22 @ 9:30 p.m., but not enough from the fearless leader herself: Let’s hear some gospel from the Madam herself. Get ready to be impressed!
Joining Rev. Mary is the ukulele-jammin’ Liz Rabson. That name might ring familiar with blue-ians as she is the daughter of the legendary blueswoman, Ann Rabson. Carrying on the tradition – and just carrying on with Rev. Mary, Liz is a featured player in the GRANNY tour, so we wanted to get a few notes from her.
I was there at the last Duplex run, you guys were awesome. I screamed with the rest of the crowd. Why is this so popular… especially when you can say just about anything anywhere?
REV. MARY: I think there are a lot of different factors involved. The music is good and people just love the blues, rock and swing. We are all good musicians and singers who take their work very seriously and that adds to the music! The music is simple and that allows us to really add our own ideas into it. I never sing the songs the same way twice and that’s alright! The interpretation can always move and change and it does based upon my mood or experiences. The audience senses that freshness too.
I also think it’s about nostalgia and the desire for a time when everything wasn’t as blatant and up front as it is today. It’s just sexier to have some clothes on than to be butt naked! Burlesque is having a big boom now because of that as well. Stripping is now not just sexual or a turn on but an art form! I like seeing sexuality taken in that direction. The woman or the man is no longer an object but an artist! This work is like that too I call it Burlesque for your ears!
These songs were also written (many) by women and sung by women as well. Women were not allowed to express themselves sexually, especially in music, so the need for double entendre was pretty obvious and people became masters of it.
Women find it fun and empowering. I mean, it’s still not common for women to be upfront about their sexuality and desire for their partners and men love it because it makes them feel desired too after all we are singing about their…parts and sex! I do think it goes further than Burlesque which is about expressing one’s self in a physical way. This is someone talking about desire, sex in all its aspects in good music with good performers and a whole lot of laughs. It is truly very funny. Filthy and funny.
Also, in the times we are living in people just want to LAUGH! That is what I provide.
LIZ: This is a great question. I do think this show that Mary created has something that people are fundamentally drawn to. Yes it’s sexy and funny and the music is great but I think that putting this particular show together influenced by the copulatin’ blues tradition is particularly smart and well curated.
This is so much more than just an “act,” it kind of feels like an exploration of sorts. Tell us about these songs and the singers who did them?
REV. MARY: To me both singing and making people laugh is a spiritual practice. I call it my “practice” just as people who work in more esoteric music (which I do also) do. I let the Goddess sing though me. The Goddess of love and sex is in all of these songs and the laughter they bring heals people and clears away all their stress and anxiety. That’s an exploration of sorts for me. I use music to heal in all circumstances both myself and all that hear it.
As far as it being a personal exploration…yes it is. I am of a “certain age” now and I have come to see my own sexuality and desire as something natural and fun not the scarier, love laden thing it was when I was younger. I have had a lot of lovers I am very proud of this and I have no need to hide. I like sex. I have always been pretty open about my sexuality because to me it’s always been like eating, just a natural body desire which is sacred certainly not something to be ashamed of. I am pretty eclectic sexually so I can understand many of these songs. I guess letting that be seen out there on the stage is both a sort of rebellion towards my own healing, healing the fear of not being young or desired any longer that at this point I am washed up as a woman! I get over that when I do these songs. It feels good to inspire others to do the same.
I love the music and the people who made it. Knowing who they are and being able to bring their songs out and still make people listen and laugh is an honor for me. Many of these songwriters and singers have been gone a long time now but when we do their work it breathes again…and people enjoy them. It’s like helping a legacy remain alive.
You’re three shows in on your tour with two more coming and negotiating a bunch more. is it fun?
Performing is fun! Super fun! It’s why I do this. Traveling from place to place is fun. Seeing new audiences and new spaces …totally FUN! Dragging pianos and other equipment around is NOT fun! Managing an act? Hard.
For Liz: You’re carrying on the reputation of your mom. You actually represented her recently. How does that feel?
LIZ: It feels great to apply the things I’ve learned over my lifetime in one focused show. I’ve played a lot of different types of music in my life as a musician but this is that stuff I grew up listening to as a kid. Believe it or not I learned to sing a lot of these songs or style of songs from my mom in the car. We used to travel a lot, as musicians do, and we would sing together and she really taught me how to sing just by driving around.
Let’s get deep. These tunes were created in a time when no one could be vocal about such subjects. How have things changed … or have they?
REV. MARY: I don’t think for women that they really have changed. Sure, I hear it in rap and in lyrics a bit but they don’t feel powerful. It seems like much new stuff is about just shock or doing what the boys are and just femalifying it. I love making up words! Women are still objectified in the music industry. I think my rights as a woman are surely different than they were then. I do think that if I tried to do this in other times I would have been relegated, as so many of these women were, to a less chance to sing and perform. I would have been, unless I was Mae West, ignored and looked down on by some. Some of these women were even prostitutes on and off in their lives, singing in brothels to make a living as well. So, yes things are changed and most times it’s a live and live attitude I come across, like there’s really no bad judgment. I also think that the many women who have also done this before me have kicked open doors for me to walk into so they changed things. I am just carrying on changing things!
LIZ: Things have definitely changed. I think some music these days lacks the subtlety of music from this time period. There was an artistry to it. Really many of these songs are low-down and dirty as can be and say it plainly but use a slightly veiled language and humor that required some thought and creativity. I’m not saying it’s a completely lost art, there are some really great folks producing some very smart, thoughtful and sexy modern music, just that some popular artists today skip the double entendre and go straight to indecent.
As I understand it many of these songs grew out of the brothel traditions when the women who could sing to sell their wares brought in more money, so they are intentionally and overtly sexual in every way. The good news for us is there was a lot of material to work with from the time since some of it survived long enough to be recorded. And we are truly the lucky ones to get to perform it for these lovely audiences who have been attending our shows.