When Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart roll in with their entourage on Friday, they'll have an instant connection with the valley.
"My husband's from Indio," says Nancy Wilson of her mate, rock writer, film director and former Indio resident, Cameron Crowe. "So what's the place like? What should I know?"
What Wilson should know is that when Crowe was growing up out here, the valley was starved for entertainment. But that's not true anymore. Heart's coming to the valley for a concert at 8 p.m. Friday, March 16, which also happens to be Nancy's birthday.
Unlike the girl bands who came before Heart, the Wilson sisters could really rock. Nancy played guitar with all the accomplishment of any guy, while Ann's vocals alternately soared to the heights of the purely angelic, like Stevie Nicks, and raw energy of Robert Plant or Roger Daltry. They paved the way for other powerhouse girl singer like Pat Benatar and Rindy Ross who followed a few years later.
"Yeah, we were more like a Led Zeppelin," Nancy says of their style of rock. "We had the versatility and we could crank it out (like Zeppelin) or do the ballads, which was pretty cool. And there weren't any other bands with a girl playing lead (guitar)."
Thought of at first as a novelty in the rock world, the Wilsons and the rest of the band showed they had the chops to rock with the best of them. Songs like "Kick It Out," "Little Queen" and "Barracuda" showed they weren't just trying to keep up with the boys, but had developed their own style that blended a little metal with classic rock and R&B.
A little background
The reason, Nancy says, for their confidence in keeping up with and besting the boys came from being raised in a military family. "It came from my mom," she says. "We were a Marine Corps family and a lot of the time, my dad wasn't around. We didn't have a lot of gender-specific role models."
With the family living in Seattle in the early 1970s, Ann, who is four years older than Nancy, left home first and joined a band initally called The Army, and later White Heart. The group included Steve Fossen and the Fisher brothers, Roger and Mike, in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1970, with Nancy following four years later. With the sisters fronting the band, they changed the name to Heart and made a name for themselves in the Northwest.
A regional hit version of Dreamboat Annie, with "Crazy On You" and "Barracuda," sold fairly well and eventually was picked up by Capitol. Over the next five years and four albums, the women kept rock, but their popularity waned in the early '80s. In the mid-'80s Heart regained its momentum with the release of their self-titled Heart in 1985 that produced four top 10 hits in "What About Love?," "Never," "These Dreams" and "Nothin' at All."
Back to reality
These days touring is more of a family affair, with various kids (both Ann and Nancy have two each) and sister Lynn who is the band's wardrobe lady (and her kids). "It makes it a lot nicer," Nancy says. "We're all really comfortable with each other. And being in business with your sister isn't bad."
They still rock, playing not only old favorites, but tunes from their latest disc, Jupiter's Rising, released in 2004, along with oldies like the Zeppelin's "Rock 'n' Roll."
"There's still a lotta rock in us," she says. "We still love what we do."
I remember seeing Heart a couple of time in the 70's when they were a new band and they always did a few Zeppelin songs at their shows. Haven't seen them since, but hear they still do some Zep songs.