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.77Q-V000, photo by Alan Pogue Aut The One Knite FROM A STRONG WEST WIND: The Soeur Queens was an all-girl honky-tonk band started in 1971 by a gifted lunatic from east Texas named C.J. The band’s name was taken from the French noun for sister, but its double entendre \(in Texas, you’d just say was testament to what kind of band we were. C.J. played guitar, wrote most of the songs, and provided the lan vital for the group; we also had a Czech-American piano player with a guttural alto so sultry she could set a dance hall on fire, a bass player, a couple of backup guitarists, and myriad vocalists, not all of whom could carry a tune. I played the flute, which is a merciful way of saying I tried, and I sang the occasional duet with a godsent soprano who left us, wisely, to play with Butch Hancock and eventually form her own zydeco band. We performed at fund-raisers and barbecues and back-alley juke joints like the One Knite, where a fight broke out late one evening when somebody threw a chair. We enlivened any crowd just because we’d show up, fearless, and sing “Austin Uptown Down” or “The Only Sin is Frettin'” or Jimmie Gilmore’s “Dallas.” The talent in the group carried the rest of us: The fundamental requirements for being a Soeur Queen, more than musical skill, was attitude. The Soeur Queen Songbook, which we self-published in the mid-1970s, carried this lowercase inscription: “this songbook is dedicated to all those everywhere who are soeur queens in their minds. those of us who put it together were obviously out of ours.” That dedication wasn’t much of a legal defense, but it might have been the only one available, had we not gotten out of Houston when we did. One winter weekend in 1973, most of the band and a few extras piled into a couple of vans and drove down to Houston for the National Women’s Political Convention, being held at the Rice Hotel. Whether anyone else knew it yet or not, we assumed our presence would be required. After we’d send the conference itinerary, full of grim plenary sessions and actual work, someone in our ragtag coalition suggested that the Soeur Queens kidnap Gloria Steinem. This was obviously more delusion than strategy; it was just that the NWPC agenda looked staid and bourgeois, and we imagined ourselves part of the entertainment. Like most moments of Soeur-Queen-inspired folly, the plot was short-lived, though a few of us did go so far as to join Steinem in an elevator and serenade her with “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-r-ri-a, in excelsis deo.” We were warming up for the two-minute concert we gave onstage the first morning of the convention. I don’t remember what we sang . . . but we were thrown off the stage halfway through the song, and one humorless network cameraman chided us for being troublemakers. A better piece of criticism came from the mother of one of the Soeur Queens, a middle-aged liberal Democrat who was in the audience. Once we had gotten the hook, she followed us and our phalange of security guards to the lobby outside the auditorium where we had been escorted. She hugged her daughter, then beheld the rest of us as though we had just performed at halftime at the Cotton Bowl. “Y’all are the worst band I’ve ever heard!” she said brightly; we took it for the matchless praise it was. Gail Caldwell MARCH 10, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25