Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Remembering Kathi McDonald

Kathi Mcdonald was one of the all-time great female vocalists in rock,blues and R&B. She passed away yesterday, apparently slipped into a coma and never came out.

She had an incredible resume, which you can see elsewhere, but there was a bit of a Canadian connection via Long John Baldry who toured with her for maybe 20 years. Baldry's band always had a few Canadians, Papa John King, Butch Coulter, Al Webster band many others including yours truly when I subbed for Papa John in Brampton or Brantford. Kathi & John made some classic recordings and the bands gave some unforgettable shows. I toured Germany with Kathi & Butch Coulter for 3 weeks in 09 and I could see in every venue we played there were framed pictures or posters of Baldry and Kathi was treated like royalty.

I must share my introduction to Kathi McDonald: I arrived in Frankfurt for this German tour a few hours before Kathi. I was settled in my hotel room and asked the desk to let me know when Miss McDonald arrived. I received a call later "There seems to be a problem. Miss McDonald says her bag has been stolen." She got on the phone, speaking so fast I could really understand what she was saying then she told me to meet her in room 3-something and when I got there, she had stuff spread all over the bed & floor and was sobbing "It's gone! It's all gone, my passport, my money, my jewelry, my phone book!! All those numbers... Peter Frampton's fucking home number..."

I'm thinking "this tour is over before it even started" and "How are we going to tell Butch?" but then she says "Oh fuck it, let's go get a drink." We go around the block, she has a couple of Cuba Libre and I have a slice of pizza then we make our way back to the hotel. We get into the tiny cage elevator and I accidentally push the button for the second floor (she was on the third floor and I was on the fourth floor). The elevator door opens on the second floor and I see a small bag and a purse on the floor and say "Kathi, is that your stuff?" She's incredulous. Obviously as she was loading in her stuff (and she had many bags) she brought the two most important ones up to what she thought was her floor (in her jet-lagged state) and dropped them while she got the rest.

That was just the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime, with musical highs that I will cherish forever. I have have played alongside some great singers but never experienced anyone with a voice like that. I think I heard somewhere that she was Etta James' favourite singer. She was many singers' favourite singer. Another memory from that tour - on one of the last gigs, as I was basking in the applause after my little feature spot in the show, she leaned into my ear and said "you know it would be nice if you could learn a couple of words of German for moments like this..." Danke schön, Kathi