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Saturday night at the Tubs: "And now, The Continental presents The Carbon Monoxide Girl, Sally Eaton!" I know she introduced that song in Hair, but that had to be the most outrageous introduction for a singer that I ever heard. The Carbon MONOXIDE Girl!
Well, Sally came out looking like a teen-age Mammy Yokum, skinny little strapless dress, hair frizzed and flying and the crowd went wild. I had my doubts.
Sally's partner (not accompanist, PARTNER), and intense young man named Cliff Grishman, sat down at the keyboard and they did "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out". Every singer thinks he (or she) can sing that song, but very few, VERY FEW, can make it work. Sally Eaton and Cliff Grishman made it work and made it their own. I had no more doubts. They ran through a passel of tunes that night and they never missed. Traditional Blues like "Wild Women Don't Worry, Wild Women Don't Sing The Blues", Mae West's "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone", and a number of very arresting original songs all emerged as the real thing: splendid theatrical blues with flash 'n trash enough to please any audience and a deep and genuine blues authority (rooted in the great tradition) to please the purists.
Sally's talent is impulsive and spontaneous and she tells me that Cliff keeps her honest, musically. I'm sure he does, but I'll bet it isn't necessary. No one has to keep this girl honest. She is the best white blues singer since poor Janis and, in her own way, Sally is just as good.
I soon found out that Sally (an Aries like many of the great blues women) is the real thing in "real life" too. She and Cliff came over to my house for wine and talk and we were old friends within five minutes. Sally Eaton is a brave little girl and a trouper. The aplomb with which she dared the terrors of my funky out-in-the-hall water closet proved that.
We sat on the floor, smoked, sang the dirty blues and Sally plotted my astrological chart. She told me about Hair, it's winners and casualties. "One of those girls is a hooker now!" I teased her about the self-destructive image of the great blues singers; She told me that too many cigarettes is her one real vice.
She sampled the remains of the supper I had cooked and gave me a heaven recipe for sukiyaki.
She told me a fabulous story (which I promised not to print) about the night she got in drag (as a boy, of course) to crash the Barn, that late, legendary and lamented back-room bar. Curiosity may not have done much for the well-known cat, but it doesn't seem to have hurt Sally a bit.
And she told me about Cliff Grishman. They met at just the right time: Sally needed a direction and Cliff needed someone like Sally Eaton. Since there is no one LIKE Sally Eaton, it was - from the start - a "marriage" Made in heaven. Cliff is an experienced musician and composer with a solid background in the blues and related styles. They dug each other, musically, and were able to spend many months working together, perfecting their music, in peace and quiet until they were really ready to present it to their public.
Now the word is out: the big agencies and record companies are sniffing around and all Sally Eaton and Cliff Grishman need is to be heard.
You should do that the next time you get a chance.