Linda Baker LaFlamme
For more than 32 years - longer than anyone else -- Linda Baker LaFlamme has been the female voice of White Bird. As David's wife and musical partner, she has seen the band and its members through the hard time after its breakup in 1974; she endured long years on the road as a performing musician.
Here is her story in her own words.
I was born in May 1947, in a rundown area in Brooklyn, New York. I've always been one of those people who was an admirer of music. Over the years I've had my choices of whom I really adored and wanted to be part of or hear and contribute what I had to contribute. It's always been important to me, I don't know why, it's been something that has always been in my life.
My mom is French and Irish, my real father, totally Italian. The family which I grew up in - five half brothers and sisters, with me right in the middle - was totally dysfunctional. I was always trying to get attention! Which I got at the age of live, by copying singers such as Judy Garland, Johnny Ray, Jimmy Durante, and Mario Lanza. And of course my parents thought I was absolutely nuts, they didn't know where this person came from. The Italian side of my stepfather's family often threw money after my performances. When I was asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the answer was always the same -- a singer, actress, and a dancer! My parents, to this day still think none of the above are a profession!
I grew up as a rebellious teen, in and out of trouble, both in school and with my family. In 1966 I started hanging out in Greenwich Village. There was so much magic happening! The streets were filled with the smell of incense and marijuana, musicians played their tunes, and mimes, poets and actors living out their fantasies. I felt myself being drawn into hanging out with more and more musicians. I admired their lifestyles. They had recognition and respect for doing what they loved.
Imagine walking into a party and there standing in front of the fireplace is Tiny Tim playing, "Tip toe through the Tulips". In another room, George Harrison playing guitar and Ringo on congas. These parties happened quite often at Cybil Burton's apartment above her well-known night club, Arthur%. Electric Ladyland Studios and the Steve Paul Scene were also wonderful places to hear the greats play. Hendrix, Cream, Traffic, anyone who was in town performing always stopped in for late night jams.
I attended the Woodstock Festival and had the honor to hang out backstage. Those drug-filled days were packed with Love, Peace, and Happiness. Our faces hurt from smiling so much! We really showed the world that "All you need is Love". The music spoke to us all like the gospel did when we went to church. Those days will never be forgotten by anyone who was there. My life was never the same after that experience.
I then moved to the town of Woodstock Musicians were living there and playing there all the time. Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Harvey Brooks, Van Morrison, The Band. Albert Grossman supplied the studio and the venues at which they worked. My fondest memory of Woodstock is listening to Hendrix his electric guitar outside in the woods. His notes rang freely touching all the elements and the wind cried Mary! He was a spiritual man, and believed we all were connected with nature and the universe.
In 1970 I left for San Francisco. I met David in 1973, at the night club called the Orphanage. At this particular time I was there in town with a friend, to see Bob Marley and the Wailers, one of his last performances, and David was playing down the street, and my friend was telling me how we should go down the street, taking a break from seeing Bob Marley to check out David LaFlamme's new group, Edge City.
David was a tortured soul at the time. He had just lost It's A Beautiful Day and everything else he owned. He had put together this new group that was rumored to be very good. It was a young group from the Russian River area in Sonoma County who he had hired to play behind him. Nice grooves, a good keyboard player, and really good songs that David had just written
Well, I have to admit that I hadn't been real fond of It's A Beautiful Day. I wasn't really into their music. Of course I knew the song "White Bird", but I really didn't like it. Having grown up in New York I was more into Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream. I liked the sound to be a little bit heavier, a little more soulful, and I found It's A Beautiful Day to be a little too 'pop' for me.
Nevertheless we went on down there to check out his new group, and David was onstage playing, and I was totally mesmerized by his playing. He was just outstanding. I was impressed how he could sing and play the violin at the same time. I was really impressed and I ended up not going back to see the second set of Bob Marley. Well, while I was there David somehow caught eye of me in the crowd, I don't know why, and he decided he was going to sit down with me at this bar in the back and do an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. I guessed later on the reason why he was doing it was to let me know who he was or why he was doing it, I don't know, there was an attraction going on there. And as I was to leave that night, he asked me if I would come back the next night, to the Orphanage, as he was to play there the next night, and I agreed to do that.
That's basically how our relationship started, from that second night on, we were pretty much together. The chemistry was there. We had basically very much the same background. We found out we were both Taurus, he was born on May 4, I was born on May 9. Also that our families were very similar, he had six brothers and sisters, I had six brothers and sisters. I couldn't understand how we had never crossed paths before. Even when I had worked at the Fillmore as a shadow dancer, I'd never seen It's A Beautiful Day perform.
We knew if this relationship was going to happen I would have to come out on the road with him as a singer. That I could sing was a surprise to David. I had been with him probably about three months and I was singing along to some Stevie Wonder songs as we were driving in the van on the way to some gig he was to do with the band, and he kept looking at me and saying, "I didn't know you could sing." And I was... well, I didn't consider myself a singer, not at that time. I was always a dancer, I had been a background dancer at the Fillmore East.
But David decided I should be a singer in his band. So I started singing with him, very frightened and very cautiously, I started learning new songs with him, songs like "Pick Up The Sticks", "Baby, Don' t Do Me", and "So Real So Right". We toured for five years straight, then right before we recorded our first album together, I took vocal lessons with Judy Davis, who taught such greats as Tony Bennett, Judy Garland, Johnny Mathis, Journey, Jefferson Starship, and many others.
The first big concert I did with David was opening for Boz Scaggs in Chico, California. I'll never forget it. About 5,000 people there. We had a new band together, David and I, and I was scared to death. We got out there and I did the performance. It went quite well, I got a write-up, in fact my picture was the only picture in the write-up, at Chico State College. I was dressed rather risqué, I was very much known for that, I would wear just skimpy little leotards, and high boots and long scarves, and bustier, I was doing things long before Madonna was, I think, I consider that pretty out there for 1974.
Some of the acts that we toured with in the beginning of my career with David were groups like Eric Burdon and War, The Tubes, Kansas, Elvin Bishop, Hot Tuna, Bo Diddley, Greg Kihn, Stoneground, the list goes on and on. We did a lot of clubs and festival, and racetracks, and playing up in the Nevada mountains.
We finally landed a contract with Amherst Records, which are the solo albums that I did with David. We did two albums together -- White Bird (1977), and Inside Out (1978). On those two albums I used the name Dominique Delacroix, which I later changed back to Linda Baker; and then of course when we married in 1982, Linda Baker Laflamme.
After Amherst Records picked us up and we did the White Bird album, we went out on a fabulous tour. We were out there for almost three and a half months, playing all the small theater venues all over the United States, and probably one of the nicest tours I ever did. We played places like the Bottom Line in New York, the CellarDoor in Washington, the El Macambo in Toronto, the Keel Theatre in St. Louis, the Purple Onion in Tucson, Old Man River in New Orleans.
We did the Paramounts, in both Seattle and Portland, and the Miami Convention Center in Miami, Florida, the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Babcock Theatre in Billings, Montana. So we did do quite a bit of touring with that band. Jim Ralston, who played guitar with us for many years, went out on tour with us and he now plays with Tina Turner. A fabulous guitarist. We played with such acts as John McLaughlin, Billy Joel, Tim Weisberg. Dan Hicks opened for us on many of these occasions.
It was quite nice, it was impressive because we were basically the headliners. And we thoroughly enjoyed, it was done very professionally. We had very good representation at the time in Los Angeles. Fond memories of that. And after the second album, Inside Out, that's when the record company pulled out on David, which was a shame because David considers most of that material to be some of his best.
We moved to Salt Lake City in about 1980. David and I had a band we had put together in Oakland, CA, and we actually ended up taking part of them to Salt Lake City to live with us there and to tour out of there, which we did for five years. We toured all over Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana was a big state for us, going up into Canada frequently. So we basically had those venues for five years. We had an agency out of Missoula, MT, called Meadowlark Agency, who had several other bands that they booked, but we were their number one act because we were the only ones that had any kind of recognition. So we worked with them, and things went well, we ended up getting promo'd together, traveling in our vans together, and our equipment together, and we were sufficient on our own for those five years. Very popular in those states, we were requested over and over again to go back and play different venues on those states.
We have toured together for over twenty years now, all over the U.S. and Canada. We've put many bands together over the years, always experimenting with different sounds - everything from five vocalists, horn sections, and electric drums, to many different renditions of "White Bird", and of course David's Zeta violin system. We also have two movies that have never made it out - the Tribal Stomp, at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley in 1978 -- eight hours of non-stop music, and the 20 Years After Woodstock Festival, a three day event with many outstanding groups on it, including Leon Russell, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Country Joe McDonald, Melanie, and Johnny Winter.