In the streets and nightclubs of mid 1970s New York City, early purveyors of both the fledgling disco and punk scenes were soon rubbing their very differently attired shoulders, in the downtown bars, clubs and loft happenings. It was unclear exactly in which direction popular music was moving, but mid seventies New York was like a mighty melting pot of what was to come. By 1974, bands like The Ramones, and Television were just starting to emerge at the legendary CBGBs club in Manhattan’s then run-down Bowery district, and at around the same time, a former folk singer, waitress and ex-Playboy bunny named Debbie, was busy cutting her musical chops in an all girl singing group, The Stilettos.
Alongside band mates Elda Gentile and Amanda Jones, their first gig together was in October 1973 in a bar on 24th Street called the Bobern Tavern,
“It was a mix of Shangri Las/Supremes type trio, doing a mixture of raunchy music. We had a lot of fun, but we weren’t too musical. Three girls trying to get along together is pretty hard . . .” – Debbie Harry
Enter audience member Chris Stein, who after watching one of the early shows, introduced himself to Harry, and pretty soon he was able to add both “boyfriend” and “guitarist with The Stilettos” to his list of credentials. This line-up of The Stilettos would also include bassist Fred Smith, who would later go on to join Television.
After leaving the Stilettos, Harry and Stein first formed a band called “Angel and the Snake”, that a few months later and with various line-up changes, would rename themselves Blondie – a word that was apparently often yelled at Harry by passing truck drivers.
But even that’s not quite the beginning – in 1968, Harry had already recorded an album as a singer in a folk rock group called The Wind in the Willows. Still strictly brunette, she appears on one self-titled album released in 1968 on Capitol Records. Their second album didn’t make it as far, and the studio tapes remain lost.
So, just for a moment, loosen your dog collar, adjust your warp factor to about 1968, tie some flowers in your hair and enjoy Debbie – the folk singer.