When you ask people to name the very first all-female rock band ever, THE GOGO'S, THE BANGLES or THE RUNAWAYS might come close to the truth. But the real answer would be FANNY. Formed in the late sixties, led by the two sisters, June and Jean Millington, they sounded like a real rock band. From that moment on, it was cool and accepted for women to play rock music. As there was no competion back in these days, FANNY were quite unique and on their own, so to speak. Reason enough to tell the story of these ladies, that opened the door for many female musicians to come and give all you youngsters a lesson in rock history. This, my friends, is the story of the history of women in rock music. In other words, it's the story of the first all-female rock band that ever existed. This is the story of FANNY…….
The sisters June and Jean Millington leave Manilla (which is in the Republic of the Philippines) with their family in 1961, to move to California. They're thirteen years old, and already played some music at a convent, where they'd studied for a year. They both play guitar and ukelele. When they arrive in California, they decide to play folk music, because that's the trend at the time. But hey, we're talking about the mid-sixties here! The BEACH BOYS changed their lives completely with their surf and rock music. The girls switch over from ukelele to electric guitar and they formed school bands.
In Sacramento, they formed their first all-female band, called THE SVELTS. June would be the guitar player of the band. Jean would also like to be the guitar player. Both sisters had been playing the guitar for a number of years now. But since June was older, she decided that she wanted to play the guitar, and Jean switched on to bass guitar. A girl named Cathy became the rhythm guitar player and Kathie played the drums for THE SVELTS. It's 1965 now, and THE SVELTS can almost be seen as a miracle. An all-female rock band. Well, there may have been a few more, like THE CALIFORNIA GIRLS from Palo Alto, the city where the DONNAS are from, too. THE FREUDIAN SLIPS and THE ACE OF CUPS were also all-female bands that started in CA at the same time. However, it wasn't that easy. The fact that the Millington sisters played acoustic guitar was quite okay. But that they played electric guitar in an all-female rock band, could be seen as a very rebellous move. This was not a common thing to do. But the only thing that June had in mind was, that she wanted to be the guitar player of the very first all-female rock band in the world! THE SVELTS were a good start.
They were formed in 1965 and they got a record deal in 1969. After a million hours of rehearsals, the band sounded very professional and it wouldn't be wise to turn them down. These girls really knew how to play. THE SVELTS became friends with almost every other all-female rock band at that time. Which was easy, because when someone decided to leave the first band, she could easily step into the next band. After all, they were all friends of each other and they were wearing the same cross. The cross of people ignoring them. But the same people had to admit that there was a lot of talent in these all-girl bands.
When THE SVELTS were looking for another drummer…again..., they bumped into Alice de Buhr, who played in WILD HONEY - an Iowa based band. One thing led to another and June and Jean also got in contact with Addie Clement, who played guitar for THE CALIFORNIA GIRLS and a percussionist named Brie Berry. WILD HONEY was formed and they moved to San Jose. There they started to expand their career. At the backstage area of the Whisky-a-Go-Go, June came in touch with Kim Fowley. He had an artist agent called Musicians' Referral Service. A sort of agency that helps people finding each other. He helped Nickey Barclay find the musicians of WILD HONEY, who were searching for a keyboard player at that time. At the time Nickey joined the band, they were going through a lot of line up changes. Too much to mention here. But they also got in touch with Richard Perry. Another important name in the career of the soon to become rock band FANNY, which was still called WILD HONEY at the time. Richard was a big producer back in those days and he had heard from the band through his secretary. He had already produced people like CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, THE POINTER SISTERS and BARBRA STREISAND. Richards secretary contacted the band and told them that Richard wanted to hear them play. A private gig was organised the same day. And after this twenty minute private gig, the band got signed.......just like that. Richard was in a hurry, because he had to fly to London in a couple of hours to produce the new ELLA FITZGERALD record. Richard had just signed the 'female BEATLES' in his opinion, and things started to look great for the ladies.
Almost right after that, Addie left the band all of a sudden and June became the new guitar player of the band. The band had to find either a new guitar player or a keyboard player. That's when Nickey (a professional session keyboard player) enters the story. In the meantime, a year has past. Nickey however, leaves the band for a short period of time to become a member of the famous JOE COCKER BAND during his legendary "Mad Dogs And Englishmen" shows. After this experience, she returns back to FANNY. They train Nickey while playing and after three months they recorded their first album. The girls change their name to FANNY, which is another name for 'butt'. The first album and the promotional pics of the band show the four band members from the back. Also, bumper stickers were printed with slogans on it like "Get behind FANNY" or "FANNY: The End Of An Era". The name was part of a promotional campaign, they had planned for these four hard rocking ladies. Things began to move very fast now.
It's 1970, when "Fanny", the album, becomes a big hit. And people still might want to discuss the fact that FANNY is called a rock band. Well, if you play "Badge" of THE CREAM as a cover on your debut album, then rock is a good name for the music that you play, don't you think so? This was one of the first real rock songs written in the long history of music. Pretty soon after this album, they released a second album called "Charity Ball", which was another great rock album. Touches of funk may also be heard on this album, but it's great to hear the electric guitar solos doing their thing. And with "Special Care", they recorded a second cover. This time they choose for a STEPHEN STILLS song. Highlights on this important album (after all, the second album can be seen as the most important one in their career) were the first two songs "Charity Ball" and "What Kind Of Lover". In my opinion, they really stood the test of time. Even after thirty long years, because "Charity Ball" was released in 1971. The band was gaining success, and playing and touring a lot. When they had a day off, they insisted on rehearsing and practise their skills. They still had this goal to become the best all-female rock band in the world, remember? FANNY had become a full time job. They spend twenty-four hours a day to the band. This began to show, because fellow artists also showed respect for FANNY. Photographer CANDICE BERGEN shot the picture that was used for the "Charity Ball" album. LOWELL GEORGE of LITTLE FEAT proffered slide guitar lessons to the Millington sisters. And even BARBRA STREISAND let them play on her album "Stoney End".
1972 was the year they released a new album, named after the house they'd lived in; "Fanny Hill". It became a logical follow up to "Charity Ball". Completed with another cover, namely "Hey Bulldog" of THE BEATLES. Probably referring to the fact, that they'd recorded the album at the world famous BEATLES' Apple Studios in London. It's almost like nothing happened in all these years, but when you are successful, life seems to become a sort of vicious circle. You make a record, tour around the country playing from town to town, release a new album and then start touring again. It's a circle of things that need to be done over and over again, until something different happens to the band. If you can live with that and the band is strong enough to survive then you can go on for years, living the life you live. So in 1973, the circle closed itself again with the release of a new album. It's called "Mother's Pride".
It contained two covers. They open with the RANDY NEWMAN song "Last Night I Had A Dream" and they also recorded a song called "Old Hat", which was originally written by DAVID SKINNER. Not every song is rocking on this album. Some of the songs sound like easy listening or country like music. They also added Barry Rogers on the trombone and John Paybne on the flute, on this album. Live they were still quite spectacular. But on their records, they became a bit more modest. I think the title is a tribute to the mother of the Millington sisters. She was very proud of her two children, who actually did achieve what they believed in. And they did a great job too, by proving that they were good and successful musicians. And their mother stood by their side, right from the very start. "Mothers Pride" is also the first album, that was not produced by Richard Perry. The man, who produced all their previous albums. TODD RUNDGREN did the job instead. He also did some background vocals on the album.
It was at that time, the internal tension became very strong. In 1973, FANNY's star was also rising very fast in Great Britain, where they opened up for bands like LEON RUSSELL, VAN MORISON, CHUCK BERRY, CHICAGO and JETHRO TULL. Sometimes they even headlined a few shows, giving other all-female bands like ISIS a change to open for them. There was a lot of internal struggling. This reached a climax, when guitar player June Millington collapsed. She gave herself night and day for the band, and now it was over for her. The band was very lucky however, that June was a very strong and professional woman. She knew that she would collapse one day, and she'd started searching for a guitar player that could take over her place. When things would go downstream for her, the band could go on with a suitable replacement. One day the band played in Detroit. And it was there, that June found a suitable replacement for her. Her name was Patti Quatro. Patti played as a support act for FANNY in Detroit with her band CRADLE. Mickie Most had already kidnapped Patties sister Suzi to England to start a solo career. Patti first played with all her other sisters Suzi, Nancy and Arlette in SUZI SOUL AND THE PLEASURE SEEKERS. After that Patti played in CRADLE and it was with this band, that June saw her playing. Patti liked the idea of becoming the new guitar player for FANNY. And after six months or so, June thought that Patti was ready to take over her place in the band. But with Patti as the new guitar player, a lot of things started to change for FANNY.
Alice De Buhr also quit playing the drums, and she was replaced by long time friend of the band: Brie Brandt-Horward. She had left THE SVELTS to become a mother. And she returned to the music scene as the new drummer of FANNY. With these new band members, the band also decided that it was time to get rid of the jeans and the modest look of the band. They had to become flashing again, to let the public know that they were there again. So they started wearing corsets and short skirts. And they signed a contract with Cassablanca Records. At that time, Cassablanca had already signed bands like KISS, DONNA SUMMER, PARLIAMENT, THE VILLAGE PEOPLE and ANGEL. And if you know these bands, then you realise that it would be a bit odd to come up with a 'normal' rock band like FANNY on your label. No, this band should look fascinating, and ready to rock the world!
It's 1974 when the girls release their new album, called "Rock And Roll Survivors". The cover on this album (which had become some kind of a tradition at this point) was the ROLLING STONES classic "Let's Spend The Night Together". It was definately a good choice. The whole album sounded alright, but the magic had left with the departure of June Millington. This may sound strange, but it's a fact. Almost right after the release of the album, Cam Davis joined the band to replace Brie, who got married. And Patti began to take over the role as band leader. Although this didn't last too long. As Jean was one of the founding members of FANNY, she wasn't too happy with this situation of course. Early 1975 Cam left the band and Patti followed shortly thereafter. FANNY called it quits and the story was over.
But there happened a lot afterwards and that's what makes this story so interesting to tell. June Millington started a solo career in New York. She met a woman called Jackie Robbins and fell in love with her. They also played together. And June regularly played with other bands like RAN-DALL'S ISLAND, and SHA-NA-NA. She was not committed to a band anymore and she just did what she always wanted to do: playing music (and above all) enjoying it again. She moved to Woodstock. There she met Cris Williamson. The two of them started playing together. June had her own career after FANNY.
Then in 1975 something really strange happened. FANNY had split up some time ago, when suddenly "Butter Boy" started climbing into the charts. "Butter Boy" was a song, that Jean had written for the last album. She wrote this song about her big love DAVID BOWIE. And nobody could have guessed that this single would end up in the charts. But it did and it reached number twenty-nine. So Jean went to Woodstock to visit her sister June to tell her the big news. The world asked for FANNY songs again. This was the ultimate chance to earn a little pocket money. And although June actually wasn't part of the success of the hit single, she agreed in doing a sort of reunion tour. This tour started in the spring of 1975. Jean, who was one of the founding members of FANNY, decided that she only wanted to do the reunion with her sister June in the band. Together with Patti Quatro, it would have become another rock and roll circus and she wanted to reveal something of the original funk meets rock stuff on stage. And the only way to create this original sound was together with her sister June. The tour was called THE FANNY'S LAST GASP TOUR, which ended in Alaska on the fourth of July. Brie played the drums on this tour. The tour only lasted a few weeks, 'cause June had formed herself a new band again, called SMILES. It was a seven piece disco funk-salsa band. But the tour was such a success, that the female part of this band decided to continue as a band, too. The reunion band had the percussionist and a roadie of SMILES. Padi Macheta on percussion and vocals and Wendy Haas on keyboards and vocals joined this reunion line up. They had the time of their lives and decided to continue as the LA ALL STARS. The LA ALL-STARS also started to become rather successful and soon they were asked to sign a record deal. There was only one major thing in the contract, which made June furious enough not to sign it. One line in the contract said that the band had to change their name into......FANNY.
And the whole story would start all over again. Money and managers turn the life of musicians into a mess. What once started as a great opportunity to get back on the road again was suddenly turned down by people, who obviously wanted to make some quick money of the good fame that FANNY had build up over the years. June quit after a few months and worked as a guest musician with Carol Macdonald's band ISIS. Cris Williamson however had packed up her own career. So when this LA ALL STARS thing didn't work out, June and Cris started working together again. And so it happened that June Millington, one of the first ladies with an electric guitar in her hand, ended up playing acoustic songs with Cris Wiliamson. Cris was very successful and June became the musician in the back. But it worked and they recorded a lot of songs together. They stayed friends for many, many years. Jean and June both played in a band called LADIES ON THE STAGE, a disco band with tonz of synthesizers.
June moved on with her life. She recorded three solo albums and after that she became the artistic director of the Institute for the Musical Arts in Bodega, California. Remember talking about the Musicians' Referral Service earlier in this story, led by Kim Fowley? Well, this is the same idea, but then only for women from all over the world. They put your information in a database and they keep this until a file matches your description pops up and you can go on from there. June started this work in 1986, together with her partner Ann Hackler, and she's still doing it. No, she hasn't quit the music scene totally. She started working as a record producer and in 1993 she even recorded an album with her sister Jean, called "Ticket To Wonderful". June still listens to the new batch of female bands. And many times she thinks: "Oh, another FANNY ripp off", when they sound exactly the same as FANNY did in their garage days. Music is timeless, and the circle goes round and round forever, as you can see.
But what happened to the other ladies? Jean stayed part of the music scene for a long time. She also had a short affair with DAVID BOWIE. Listen to his hit single "Fame" and you can hear her sing in the choir. Unfortunately, the affair with DAVID BOWIE didn't last too long. But she already adored him from when she was still a very young girl. Maybe that's why she married to David's guitar player EARL SLICK, who recently played on the new album of ex DEEP PURPLE frontman DAVID COVERDALE. She also got pregnant by him and this made her become a proud mother. Currently, June and Jean are together in a band, called SLAMMIN BABES and they released a new album in 2001, which is called "Melting Pot". You can order a copy of this CD through their website at: www.slamminbabes.com. Former drummer Alice De Buhr grows herbs. The herbs that Jean needs in her profession as a herbalist. Patti Quatro lives in Los Angeles. The strangest story however is about Nickey Barclay. Brie met her backstage at a show in London. At first she didn't want to speak to her, and when she finally did, she spoke with a funny Irish accent. Her husband, who used to be one of the roadies of FANNY, spoke with this funny Irish accent, too. Both were living in Ireland now and have completely changed their personality, pretending they don't know about FANNY. Brie was astonished, but she and June found it kinda funny, too later on. Was she the only one, who couldn't handle all the success with FANNY? In 1976, Nickey recorded a solo album called "Diamonds In A Junk Yard", but that was it.
Five solid albums were the only thing that remained after a few years of existence. Five records and a handful of memories. If you ever see an LP of FANNY on sale, don't hesitate and just buy it to get an idea of how the first all-female rock band must have sounded in their days of success. Slick Records has recently released a live CD of FANNY, called "Fanny Live", which was recorded in 1972 in the studios of WNBR radio in Cincinatti. You can order a copy off the Internet. Go to: www.slickmusic.com for more info. Also, there has been talk that Reprise are going to issue all of their back catalogue on CD, but I cannot confirm this.
Some people might find it a bit strange, that FANNY called themselves the first all-female rock band in the world. What about THE RUNAWAYS for example? But let's face it, dear readers. THE RUNAWAYS were a band created by Kim Fowley. It was his band. They were just the musicians on stage. The performing artists. But the whole concept of THE RUNAWAYS was born from the mind of Kim Fowley. The concept of FANNY, the very first all-female rock band in the world, was born from the mind of June Millington. And I think that's the biggest difference between these two bands. With this statement, I would like to end this "Back To The Past" story. In fact, it was the story of how it all began. I think, we must be very thankful to June Millington and her sister Jean for not becoming a doctor. Because that was what June was studying for in college. FANNY however brought her all the fame, she wished for. And now, about twenty-five years later, people still write about this band. A band that would become the first all-female rock band in the world. Thank you for that! I think this will prove that this story was perfect for MM, even after so many years.
written by: Toine van Poorten/copyright Metal Maidens 2001)
FANNY ('70 Reprise Records - RS-6416)
CHARITY BALL ('71 Reprise Records - RS-6456)
FANNY HILL ('72 Reprise Records - MS-2058)
MOTHER'S PRIDE ('73 Reprise Records - MS-2137)
ROCK AND ROLL SURVIVORS ('74 Casablanca Records - NBLP 7007)
FANNY LIVE ('98 Slick Music, Inc. - SM006)
LADIES CHOICE b/w NEW DAY ('70 Reprise Records - REP 0901)
NOWHERE TO RUN b/w ONE STEP AT A TIME ('70 Reprise Records - REP 0938)
CHANGING HORSES b/w CONVERSATION WITH A COP ('71 Reprise Records - REP 0963)
CHARITY BALL b/w PLACE IN THE COUNTRY ('71 Reprise Records - REP 1033)
AIN'T THAT PECULIAR b/w THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN ('72 Reprise Records - REP 1080)
WONDERFUL FEELING b/w ROCK BOTTOM BLUES ('72 Reprise Records - REP 1097)
YOUNG AND DUMB b/w KNOCK ON MY DOOR ('73 Reprise Records - REP 1119- UK Reprise K14217)
ALL MINE b/w I NEED YOU NEED ME ('73 Reprise Records - REP 1148)
LAST NIGHT I HAD A DREAM b/w BESIDE MYSELF ('73 Reprise Records - REP 1162)
SUMMER SONG b/w BORROWED TIME ('73 Reprise Records - REP K14220 (UK))
I'VE HAD IT b/w THE FIRST TIME ('74 Casablanca Records - NEB 0009)
BUTTER BOY b/w BEGGAR MAN ('74 Casablanca Records - NEB 814)
[this will be updated soon]