Bonnie Bramlett's Having a Wail of a Time

A few years ago Bonnie Bramlett made her last attempt at a solo album, albeit an aborted one.

"It was a little too slick," says the soul-rock veteran of that unreleased project. "They wanted me to sing more like Pat Benatar, and I just couldn't get it. I tried! They said, 'It sounds a little dark .' I said, 'Oh yeah, it probably does, doesn't it?' "

Nowadays Bramlett--who once wore tanning makeup to pass for black as a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue--gets to sound just as "dark" as she wants. Bramlett started hitting local clubs a few months ago with a promising new group, the Bandaloo Doctors, that is attracting a growing following with its deft and extremely loud mixture of hard rock, pop and blues. (Appearances include shows tonight at the Coconut Teaszer, Wednesday at Oscar's in Santa Barbara and May 19 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach.)

And though the quintet has a decided heavy-metal touch at times, and though some of the songs might fit in well on mainstream album-rock radio, Bramlett is afforded nonstop opportunity to wail--and she's lost none of her R&B; lung power since first becoming an Ikette.

Bramlett may still be best remembered as half of husband-and-wife team Delaney & Bonnie, who had Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Leon Russell as sidemen and who hit big with "Never Ending Song of Love" and "Only You Know and I Know" in 1971.

None of the other Bandaloo Doctors quite qualify as spring chickens, either.

Still, all these players have enough hair to pass the glam-rock dress code at the Whisky.

"We're playing to a lot of younger crowds, more of the hard rock audience," says cigar-chomping bassist Danny Sheridan, relaxing with the band before a rehearsal in a Hollywood studio. "It's two audiences: Right now we can get to the kids who like that kind of stuff, but later on we expect the other (older) people to find us, to find out who's in the band."

Bramlett, meanwhile, is also working on an autobiography--tentatively titled "I Can Laugh About It Now," because, obviously, "a lot of funny things happened, you know. Besides that, aren't you tired of hearing rock 'n' roll chick stories? Barf barf, you've heard one, you've heard 'em all. It's a big waste of time. I don't know what happened to those chicks. Did they forget the limos? It was good times!"

So this tell-all tome won't be the typical heartwarming, inspiring tale of personal triumph and struggle over adversity?

"Lemme tell ya something--go down to East L.A. and watch one of these Mexican women with seven kids trying to keep her family together. That's personal triumph," Bramlett says. "All this, 'Ah, I'm a hero, I made it through the limos and endless drugs and parties and beautiful clothes and jewelry--yeah, I made it through that, that was really hard.' . . . Come on . That myth will be blown.

"There are moments in there of pain and agony. I bleed a little bit. But the whole idea of 'I Can Laugh About It Now' is that some of the most horrendous things that happen to (musicians) are so hilarious, and all the humor's left out of the telling."

And what's funny about the Bandaloo Doctors?

"Oh man, it's Spinal Tap. This band is totally Spinal Tap."

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