Kathi McDonald's landed the vocalist her first big professional gig when she was attending a concert and joined in as part of the audience. McDonald's powerful voice drew Ike Turner's notice in a club called the Winterland, and he invited the aspiring singer to his and Tina Turner's next rehearsal. McDonald had snagged a ...spot in the Ikettes, the Turners' backing group. It was a heady and magical beginning for someone who never had any formal lessons.
Born in Washington state in 1948, McDonald performed professionally for the first time around Seattle when she was 12 years old. At the age of 19 she set off for San Francisco and its burgeoning musical climate, where she met the Turners and, through her association with them, took the first step on a career path that would span more than four decades.
Not long after the evening at Winterland, her talent caught the attention of Big Brother & the Holding Company's Sam Andrew. McDonald threw her lot in with the band in 1969, leading to appearances on the albums Can't Go Home Again, How Hard It Is, and Be a Brother. She went on to sing with Mad Dogs & Englishmen for Joe Cocker, and later sang with Leon Russell's Shelter People. Her session work included recordings for such artists as the Rolling Stones, Nils Lofgren, Rita Coolidge, Delaney & Bonnie, and Dave Mason. Her work for other musical artists totals up to appearances on almost 160 albums, more than six dozen of which achieved gold status. In addition, McDonald also launched a solo career in 1974 with the release of the album Insane Asylum. The recording was arranged by Pete Sears, whose formal band associations include Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship.
Insane Asylum featured performances by Tower of Power, the Pointer Sisters, Aynsley Dunbar, John Cippolina, Neil Schon, and Ronnie Montrose. Kathi did not release another solo effort for 20 years, when Save Your Breath appeared. Above and Beyond followed in 1999, featuring contributions from Lee Oskar on harmonica and Brian Auger on keyboards. McDonald devoted more than two decades to recording and performing in collaboration with Long John Baldry, and the duo scored with their version of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" when it was released in Canada. The song reached number 2 in Australia and also made the US charts.
Aside from collaborative efforts Kathi has solo projects of her own: Insane Asylum(1974), David Briggs, producer of the second Alice Cooper album Easy Action and multiple early Neil Young discs is at the helm on Insane Asylum. With arrangements by The Jefferson Starship's Pete Sears, whose formal band associations include Hot Tuna this is a showcase for the chops and musicianship of McDonald. There's a terrific reading of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" and an interesting first track co-written by McDonald and Pete Sears, "Bogart to Bowie," with Nils Lofgren on guitar and Bobbye Hall on percussion. The photos of McDonald on the back cover are chaotic and beautiful, a cartoon caricature of these adorns the cover, the illustration by Seiko Kashihara. With Ronnie Montrose on guitar and Pete Sears on keys for a heavy version of "(Love Is Like A) Heatwave," you basically have Big Brother & the Holding Company/ Montrose/Jefferson Starship covering Martha & the Vandellas. With what may be the best performance on the disc, "Threw Away My Love," the second Sears/McDonald original, Kathi's great, bluesy vocal fights and Journey's Neil Schon on guitar give the track tons of soul! "Freak Lover" features the late Starship violinist Papa John Creach and is appropriately manic for an album about insanity.
Willie Dixon's composition, "Insane Asylum," with Pete Sears and Nils Lofgren, is a blues workout deluxe. Neil Schon and Pete Sears accompany Kathi on a Peter Frampton tune, "All I Want to Be." Lofgren and Sears do a heavy cover of Neil Young's "Down to the Wire" for the singer to display her wonderful voice. There is an abundance of talent here, creating a nice platform for this important singer. Insane Asylum also featured performances by Tower of Power, the Pointer Sisters, Aynsley Dunbar, John Cippolina.
Her next solo project was Save Your Breath (1994), then Above And Beyond (1999) featuring contributions from Lee Oskar on harmonica and Brian Auger on keyboards. She reunited with Big Brother & the Holding Company in California for a concert on New Years Eve, 1997.
Her self-titled Kathi McDonald (2005) is a triumph in a long and prestigious career. This CD showcases the still incredible voice, timing, soulful delivery, and talent that is Kathi McDonald, the musician's choice as singer, the musician's musician, and still the biggest little white girl to ever sing the blues coming out of the West Coast. The main forces behind the CD, Pete Slauson and Ann Pierson (partners for years in the nineties at 2B1 Music, Maritime Hall, San Francisco, CA).
Kathi McDonald has given a half of a century to backing famous artists, bands or singing lead Rock and Blues to the world over.
Please sign this petition to help get her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Kathi McDonald Rock and Roll Hall of Fame petition to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was written by Bobby Capps and is in the category Arts & Entertainment at GoPetition.