Carla Olson is not your typical rock and roll feminist spokesperson. It was back in 1978 when she decided to move to L.A. from Austin, TX. with longtime pal, Kathy Valentine (who later became a founding member of The Go Go’s) and started her own band, The Textones. Their first album, “Midnight Mission” was released in 1984 and it received rave reviews from critics across the U.S. and England… Their live appearances were selling out every where. Ms. Olson was the architect for women musicians during the vibrant music scene in Los Angeles.. The Textones romped like nobody’s business!
The Textones shared the stage with The Knack, The Plimsouls, The Blasters, Los Cruzados and X et.al.… All the genres welcomed women with open arms…There was no “glass ceiling” for female rock n’ roll performers. The only perquisite was you had to be misunderstood by your family and dysfunctional to the real world .During this local music heyday their was a frenzy by record companies to cut deals with local L.A. bands…From the start of her career, Ms. Olson was defiant…sensitive … unapologetic and vulnerable… all at the same time —She was that girl-next-door swinging a sledgehammer at rock ’n’ roll as we know it. Her dossier of music affiliations included the late Gene Clark from the Byrds, Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones, Don Henley of The Eagles and Ry Cooder.
The newly released Textones C.D. (or do I call it an album?), “Old Stone Gang” is available on Blue ‘Elan Records. As she did back in the day she still displays a “macho” like swagger when she sings of passion, lost love and “girl” power in an unmediated way… Very few women could pull this off and Olson does just that! Part of her punch comes from the tension between her clean-cut “Southern Belle” look and her explicit exploration of the fearless desires of being a woman…Tracks like, “20 Miles South of Wrong” and “Bared My Soul” are wrapped around a female’s perspective of moving on from a relationship gone wrong.. …Her stories are compelling, while her guitar playing and her singing hasn’t lost a step…. I would be derelict if I didn’t mention the song co-authored by the late Phil Seymour.. “One Half Rock” which begins as a demo version and I found myself fidgeting with my computer knobs..…and then a minute into it the track kicks in, big-time… A song taken out of The Stones,“Exile On Main Street” playbook. Perfect for “Outlaw Country Radio”..(Hmmm… Outlaw Country?)! The album continues with a solid gallop with my fave track.. “Carly Jo”.. Overall, it’s a gallant return to splendor while not losing a step from The Textones “back in the day”. If music could be reflected in terms of “technicolor” did for film from back in the 50’s
I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Olsen..We talked about the history of The Textones from the late 70’s in L.A. to today…..
Rock Bands of L.A.com:When you were part of the great renaissance of the L.A. local music scene of the 80’s… what was it like then? Sharing the stages with such great talents as The Knack, The Plimsouls, X, The Plugz and The Blasters must have been spectacular! As The Textones makes its return what lessons have you learned and what advice would you give to “newbie” bands? Was it hard back in the early 80’s for a female to lead a rock and roll band?
Ms. Olson:First off, when Kathy Valentine and I decided to leave Austin for greener pastures, we literally flipped a coin to determine which city, New York or Los Angeles would be our destination. The coin landed on tails and we headed west. When we arrived in town, we advertised in The Recycler for an rhythm section that were influenced by The Who, Yardbirds, Stones, and Dave Edmunds. The responses were varied from “I can play any style, to “it’s too retro” to guys who were skeptical due to us being of the female gender. It was by chance that we met bassist Dave Provost through someone we auditioned on drums, but didn’t like, and finding drummer Markus Cuff at the Capitol Records Swap Meet. The Textones were off and running. We plastered the Sunset Strip with flyers “The Textones are coming!” In the fall of 1978 most of the clubs in town, The Starwood, Whisky, Troubadour and Roxy only booked road show acts with record label support.
This left us with few gig options. Most of the smaller venues were booking mainstream bands who already had their following. We had just arrived and only knew a few people like Don Henley who was a friend from Texas, and The Plugz who were originally from El Paso. The Mask was just starting up as a backlash to the corporate rock clubs that made up the music scene in Los Angeles. No one wanted to book a band fronted by two sassy cow gals from Austin.
Our luck was about to change with a chance meeting in front of The Bla Bla Cafe in Studio City. Kathy and I got Tito Larriva from The Plugz to help us make a demo tape which we thought would get us into The Bla Bla. We were stood up by the guy who was supposed to meet with us, and were standing outside the club loudly denouncing their attitude towards us. When up walks Saul Davis who managed singer Phil Seymour. He plucked the tape from our hands and said he’d listen and get back to us. Suddenly, we had management!
My advice to anyone starting out is to get someone to represent you. Club owners and record labels don’t want to deal directly with the artists. If you must, ask a friend to speak on your behalf. Always follow your heart, your own instincts are usually right. I once had a famous producer tell me that he would produce a record with me but he thought I should ditch playing guitar and just sing. Needless to say I was flattered but appalled at the same time!
Rock Bands of L.A.com: I look back at your dossier with who you’ve collaborated with its just amazing…. I’m sure you have some great stories…. I want to ask have you been “courted” by any new singer/songwriters?( I’m thinking Jason Isbell would be a natural)… Are you impressed with anybody from L.A. we should know about?
Ms. Olson:It’s true that I’ve been so lucky to have worked with Gene Clark, Mick Taylor, John Fogerty, and produced such talented people as Paul Jones, Phil Upchurch, Joe Louis Walker and Barry Goldberg. As a songwriter, I have collaborated with Barry Goldberg, Eric Johnson, Swedish singer Mikael Rickfors, George Green (John Mellencamp co writer), Hollies singer Allan Clarke, and members of the Textones. I have not been approached lately to co write , however I’m always looking for that magic connection with other writers. I’ve had a lot of production duties the past year so I am hoping to finish some new songs and start two new projects with Stephen McCarthy from the Long Riders, and Rob Waller of I See Hawks In L. A.
Los Angeles is teaming again with all kinds of new music and exceptional performers. Someone I try to catch whenever she is playing is Lael Neale, a singer and songwriter who can silence the room with her voice and lyrics. Picture Marianne Faithfull singing Nick Drake songs. A new band Bebopalula led by Chris Price features vocals reminiscent of 1OCC or The Beach Boys with complex Beatles like instrumentation. Another band I really enjoy seeing live is I See Hawks In LA – a new take on Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. It’s country bluegrass with Second City comedy thrown in.
Rock Bands of L.A.com: In the years since the release of your first album, “Midnight Mission”, it had been both a triumph and an albatross for you. The album got to #76. Do you feel chided for never achieving commercial success compared to its critical reviews?
Ms. Olson: In regards to “Midnight Mission” and the lack of commercial success, I can’t go spend time to regret any of the things that happened thirty five years ago. I know that the label could have done a better job of utilizing the buzz we had going with the Bob Dylan video, the great PR that we received, and that we were a really good live act. But that’s all water under that bridge. A word to the wise, hire your own publicist if you can. (We still love Mitch Schneider 🙂
Rock Bands of L.A.com: We’re very excited by your new album, “Old Stone Gang”… Did you ever consider that the album reflects the “Laurel Cyn Sound”? If ever there was a time to switch from the girl-next-door to the swinging sledgehammer at rock ’n’ roll it’s with the new album. What was the driving force that made this project come to fruition?
Ms. Olson: I’m so glad that the album is being seen as a rock album, as we intended.
Rock Bands of L.A.com: What’s the plan for touring?
Ms. Olson: We would love to tour…agents you can find us on social media!
A great thanks to Carla Olson… just a tremendous artist… & Ms. Melissa Dragich-Cordero