Goldie and the Gingerbreads were pioneers in the real meaning of the word. The band were the first all female band to be signed to a major label, paving the way for groups like The Runaways, the Go-Gos, Sleater-Kinney and many more, giving them a chance to take the stage and do their thing.
Formed in 1963, the band had hits with the songs ‘Can You Hear My Heartbeat’ and ‘Think About The Good Times’. The Gingerbreads were singer Genya (Goldie) Zelkowitz, drummer Ginger Panabianco, guitarist Carol MacDonald and organist Margo Lewis.
The seeds of the gingerbreads were first sowed when Genya, then the lead singer of The Escorts, saw Ginger perform at a club in New York. She was so bowled over by seeing a female drummer that she was inspired to form an all female rock n roll band and went over to Ginger after the gig. It wasn’t easy to find other members, finding a guitarist seemed to be the trickest stumbling block, but eventually they were complete with the addition of Margo and Carol. It is thought the band’s name was a play on Genya’s nickname, Goldie, and Ginger’s name.
Their big break came when they played the Mods and Rockers ball in 1964. The band mingled with The Rolling Stones, Warhol favourite Baby Jane Holzer and Ahmet Ertegun, chairman of Atlantic Records who promptly signed them to his label.
The band went on to tour Europe extensively with The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks and the Hollies. While their were performing at the Peppermint Lounge in New York the band caught the attention of The Animals and their manager Mike Jeffries who were lured in by the music they heard coming from the club. They were amazed by what they heard. Eric Burdon, lead singer of The Animals, said: “There was so much feeling in Goldie’s voice that I was stunned to find such a ‘black’ sound could be produced by a group of white girls.”
Their first hit single in the UK, ‘Can You Hear My Heartbeat’, was produced by Animals keyboardist Alan Price who said that Lewis’ organ playing was so good it made him want to go out and get drunk. The band had hopes of the single being a success in the US but this was thwarted by Herman’s Hermits version, which was released just two weeks before the Gingerbread’s US release.
When the band returned to the States they tried desperately to garner success, both professional and commercial, to no avail. Over the course of 1967 and 1968 the band slowly broke up. Carol and Ginger went on to form jazz-fusion band Isis, Genya went on to release several solo albums and form the band Ten Wheel Drive and Margo is now the owner and president of a talent booking agency based in New York.
Despite their short career the band made a huge crack in that 10in thick glass ceiling the music business prefers not to acknowledge. It took guts to get up on stage as an all female band in the early sixties, in an environment where we can barely imagine the kind of crap they had to deal with on a daily basis to be taken seriously. As I said before without them we’d have no Runaways, no Bangles, no Riot Grrrl and no Don’t Dance Her Down Boys, it was the Riot Grrrl movement that inspired me to write this blog. We all need to take a second and remember those who came before us, remember the Gingerbreads.