Lady Bianca is an American electric blues singer, songwriter and arranger. She studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and, in 1972, played the role of Billie Holiday in the San Francisco stage production of Jon Hendricks’ Evolution of the Blues.
She has worked with John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Sly And The Family Stone (Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back, 1976), Taj Mahal, Lamont Dozier, James Ingram, Van Morrison (Beautiful Vision, 1982; Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart, 1983; Live At The Grand Opera House Belfast, 1984; A Sense Of Wonder, 1985; and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, 1986).
In 1984, she met Stanley Lippitt, a songwriter and, later, her husband. Together they formed Magic-O Records, with their own production and publishing company. She has released a number of solo albums, including three which were nominated for a Grammy: Best Kept Secret (1995), Rollin’ (2001) and Through A Woman’s Eyes (2007).
She and the Magic-O Rhythm Band have appeared at many blues music festivals and, in 2009, she appeared with Van Morrison at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
You can find out much more about Lady Bianca on her website at ladybiancabandzoogle.com. And why not check out this Spotify playlist too?
Between November and October 1976, Lady Bianca toured North America with FZ – singing and playing keyboards with the ‘cute’ band. During his lifetime, Frank sadly only released the one track recorded during her tenure: Wind Up Workin’ In A Gas Station on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 6, which was recorded on 29 October 1976 at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Happily, the Zappa Trust posthumously issued the full concert (as Philly 76 in 2009) and is about to unleash further material from the tour recorded in Erie, Toledo and Montreal on Zappa/Erie. She was also slated to appear as a special guest on the "Bizarre World Of Frank Zappa" tour.
When I read that she was about to perform Frank’s music again, with the Stinkfoot Orchestra, I pounced. And I pounced again.
How did you first meet Ray White?
I can’t actually remember how I met him. I think someone recommended him to me and I hired him to be in my band in Oakland, CA. I have of a black and white picture of our group somewhere, but I can’t remember where I put it.
And then Frank asked me to recommend a guitar player, and I recommended Ray.
So how did FZ come to contact you about joining his band?
I don’t know how he heard about me.
In your liner notes to Philly 76, you said you weren’t familiar with FZ’s music before then. What did you think of it?
I had just left the Sly And The Family Stone band and I had very religious parents, and those lyrics may not have been proper for my parents.
What are your thoughts on the other band members?
I thought them just plain amazing and highly talented.
During the epic Black Napkins on Philly 76, it sounds like you can sing polyphonically – or was some effect applied?
No, there were no effects applied – that was me.
Fantastic! So, why did you leave the band?
I was sent home for making a comment to the audience and not being agreeable to some of the pranks Frank wanted me to partake in.
When I right my book, I will be more specific.
Frank was clearly keen to have a lady in the band at that time, as he had hired Norma Jean Bell the previous year. Why do you think that was?
I have no idea why he needed a female, but I was glad he chose me.
There is some debate about what was your last show with FZ – do you recall?
The last one was in Quebec, right before he went on Saturday Night Live. That was devastating to me. I remember, because Detroit was right across the line and I had family over there, so they picked me up.
I never did understand why, because my performances as you can hear were perfect.
Did you have any contact with Frank after that time?
Only once, in Berkeley CA, and it seemed like an apology but not really. I missed performing with him.
I didn't fully answer about what I thought of Frank Zappa: I didn't know of him but when I saw the lyrics, I didn't let my parents know, ’cause at that time that was so risky – religious background and all that [laughs].
Did you have any subsequent contact with Ray or any of the others from that period?
Aha, here we go! I had no contact with the other members.
Okay. The Zappa Trust had pencilled you in as a special guest for the so-called Hologram tour. Did they contact you about that?
Yes, someone did. And then I didn’t hear any more about the tour.
I know Ahmet Zappa loves the Philly 76 release. Have you heard the forthcoming Erie album featuring your good self – including two separate renditions of You Didn’t Try To Call Me?
No, I haven’t. I haven’t approved any vocal releases [laughs]. Maybe because they don’t want to have to pay [ugh]. I am very proud of that work, but I don’t get any residuals. Unfortunately. Even in this interview. But I thank you for interviewing me.
My pleasure. There’s a preview track from the new CD here.
That version was a little more subdued than the other ones I have heard. I was so exhausted and upset, and emotional [laughs]. There was a lot of pressure to stand my ground, no matter what.
Again, there is a lot more detail which I will put in my book.
I look forward to it.
Zappa wrote one and never mentioned me at all. But the tapes don’t lie [laughs]. I wish I could find the videos he took. They are lost they say.
Well, they posted this short clip.
OMG. He was upset. He said that I looked into the cameras and ruined the shot. Wow.
Hopefully they will release more. You are about to guest with the 15-piece Stinkfoot Orchestra, featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock. Have you ever met Napi before?
No, I haven’t met Napi.
Well, I am sure that will be a great pairing. What else are you up to these days?
Just trying to keep afloat! I’m doing a few gigs on my own, in the Bay Area.
I thank you much for your kindness.
No, thank you. I hope to see you out on the road somewhere in the not too distant future.
Interview conducted on Friday 6th May 2022.