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Kate Sanford

Kate Sanford

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Also Known As: Katherine Sanford Died:
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Los Angeles' Concrete Blonde was largely the brainchild of Johnette Napolitano, a singer/bassist with a tough voice and a striking stage presence. (The dark-haired Napolitano was, however, never blonde; the free-associative name was supplied by Michael Stipe.) Napolitano formed the band Dream 6 in 1982 with ex-Sparks guitarist James Mankey (brother of noted producer Earle Mankey, who also worked with Concrete Blonde). They changed their name after signing to the IRS label and adding drummer Harry Rushakoff. Their self-titled debut included the college-radio hit "Still in Hollywood," a manic rocker that showed Napolitano's lyrical eye for Los Angeles lowlife. The next album Free had a fuller sound with Alan Block joining on bass and Napolitano moving to second guitar; it too yielded a radio hit in "God is a Bullet." 1990 brought the band's most popular album, Bloodletting. Though still based in power-trio rock, the music had a darker Gothic undertone; the title song was a vampire tale that endeared the band to an audience that wore a lot of black and read a lot of Anne Rice. The single "Joey," a '60s-styled pop song making peace with a destructive ex, became the band's biggest hit, reaching #19 as a...

Los Angeles' Concrete Blonde was largely the brainchild of Johnette Napolitano, a singer/bassist with a tough voice and a striking stage presence. (The dark-haired Napolitano was, however, never blonde; the free-associative name was supplied by Michael Stipe.) Napolitano formed the band Dream 6 in 1982 with ex-Sparks guitarist James Mankey (brother of noted producer Earle Mankey, who also worked with Concrete Blonde). They changed their name after signing to the IRS label and adding drummer Harry Rushakoff. Their self-titled debut included the college-radio hit "Still in Hollywood," a manic rocker that showed Napolitano's lyrical eye for Los Angeles lowlife. The next album Free had a fuller sound with Alan Block joining on bass and Napolitano moving to second guitar; it too yielded a radio hit in "God is a Bullet." 1990 brought the band's most popular album, Bloodletting. Though still based in power-trio rock, the music had a darker Gothic undertone; the title song was a vampire tale that endeared the band to an audience that wore a lot of black and read a lot of Anne Rice. The single "Joey," a '60s-styled pop song making peace with a destructive ex, became the band's biggest hit, reaching #19 as a single. The album restored the trio lineup with Napolitano back on bass and Paul Thompson, late of Roxy Music, now on drums. After two more albums that failed to match the creative or commercial success of Bloodletting, Concrete Blonde disbanded in 1995. Napolitano went onto a number of projects, including a new band Pretty & Twisted, a spoken-word collaboration (Vowel Movement) with Holly Beth Vincent, and session work, including a duet on the Replacements song "My Little Problem." She also toured and recorded in the ex-Talking Heads project The Heads, effectively taking David Byrne's place in the lineup (A lawsuit by Byrne ended that project). Concrete Blonde did its first reunion in 1997, with Napolitano and Mankey collaborating with the Chicago punk band Los Illegals and releasing a collaborative album. The original trio next reconvened in 2001, lasting for a five-year stretch that yielded two studio albums and one change of drummers (Gabriel Ramirez replaced Rushakoff on the last studio album, Mojave). Napolitano declared the band dead in 2006 but they reunited once again six years later, and did a brief tour that regularly included two-and-a-half hour shows. After releasing one single ("Rosalie") the band went on hold again. Napolitano spent 2015-16 doing acoustic shows and readings to support her book, Rough Mix.

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