The Little Five Points Halloween Parade and Festival may be chock full of the craziest costumes you’ll see in Atlanta during the spooky season, but zombies, vampires and Elvis impersonators don’t hold a candle to us compared to real ’70s rock star Jayne County who will be playing the Main Stage behind the Star Bar with her new band, the Electrick Queers, at 10 p.m. Every real American punk rocker knows that musical revolution didn’t start across the Pond with the Sex Pistols, but at a couple of smoky clubs in lower Manhattan called CBGB and Max’s Kansas City – and Jayne, formerly Wayne, County was at the audacious heart of that then-burgeoning scene along with the New York Dolls, Iggy & the Stooges, Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie, Television, Pere Ubu, Cherry Vanilla, the list goes on. As Andy Warhol said, “Max’s Kansas City was the exact place where pop art and pop life come together.”
Recently Jayne County, though, returned to her Georgia roots, and ATLRetro couldn’t resist making her this week’s Kool Kat especially since we caught up with her while she was making homemade chicken soup for her own ever-growing family of cats. Of course, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to find out what outrageous plans she has for Saturday night’s gig, her take on the scene in Atlanta in the ’60s and now, and what else she’s up to now, from her artwork to her passion for protecting homeless felines.
Back in New York in the late ‘60s/early‘70s, did you feel like you were at the start of something new – first hanging with Warhol and then glam and the punk rock? Or was it just the way things were?
We knew it was something new. A lot of people didn’t think anything of it. I knew Glam was gonna loosen things up with fashion and all. Now you have metrosexuals… all the things that we were doing then were outrageous, but now they seem normal. I knew what we were doing would eventually change things.
I came back to Georgia because of tragedies in my family. My parents had been sick, my sister’s suicide and my brother’s murder made my mind up to come home and help the family as much as possible. Plus, I was sick to death of paying a fortune to live in a tiny, grimy shoe box in NYC. (laughs)
What do you think of the music and creative scene here in Atlanta and how does it compare to being here in the 1960s?
Well, the scene is a lot bigger, and then there’s more happening. It doesn’t compare to the ‘60s because it was totally radical. We were changing things. When I came back to Atlanta, I was pleasantly surprised at how much was going on and I wanted to be a part of it. I have Dick Richards to thank for that. He brought me back here in the ‘80s and ‘90s to places like Club Rio and Velvet.
Do you have a favorite memory of Atlanta back then? Maybe one that would surprise us?
That could go either way. Good memory or bad. One of my best memories was when they started having BE-INS and art shows in Piedmont Park. Seeing Atlanta’s own Diamond Lil perform for the first time at Miss Pea’s. Worst memory: there was a law that if you were male and your hair touched your ears you could be arrested for female impersonation. They used that to harass people and give them “free haircuts.” That memory sticks with me.
Coming back to the present, what did you enjoy most about playing the L5P Halloween Festival last year?
What I enjoyed most was having an opportunity to perform here, on my home ground, in Atlanta. All these years I concentrated on California, New York City and Europe, never concentrated on the South at all. I totally enjoyed letting people experience my own brand of musical mayhem and madness. Also, some people are still surprised to find out that Jayne County is actually from the state of Georgia and not New York City.
This goes back to doing things on my home ground. I’ve never had what you call a local band. I’ve always wanted to have an opportunity to work and record with a band from the South. I worked all over the world, but not here. I was asked to perform at the DebuTAUNT Ball, a benefit for PAWS Atlanta, and needed a band. I met my guitar player Jet [Terror] through close friends. He put together a lineup of homegrown musicians: Jet Prickett, Gary Yoxen and Rob Kirkland.
Will you be playing old favorites or are you throwing in some new material? Any other special plans for this year’s gig?
I will be performing mostly old favorites like: “Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl,” “Max’s Kansas City,” “Man Enough To Be a Woman,” “Nighttime” and, of course, “Cream In My Jeans.” People tend to want to hear the songs that I’m most famous for performing. Every once in awhile we do throw in a few new ones. All of these songs are available on Youtube. People become excited at the chance of hearing and seeing them performed live.
You’re known for pushing the limits at being outrageous and audacious on stage. Is it challenging to keep up that reputation after all these years?
It is especially because simply being transgendered is no longer as outrageous as it was. I’m famous for using “street language” as well which is now commonly used in a lot of our pop culture. I just happen to be the best at doing all of these things. I also consider myself a natural comedian. I enjoy making people laugh and giving them a good time.
If you had to describe your music to someone who’s never heard you play, what would you say?
I always considered my music to be my own special brand of Rock and Roll, really. You can try to classify it as Glam Rock, Punk Rock or Alternative, but to me it’s just basic raw Rock and Roll. I always thought that was what rock and roll music was. Rock and Roll is Rock and Roll and when I do it, it ROCKS. Although, I think my music transcends being categorized, a lot of people consider me a transgendered Punk Rock pioneer and I can live with that.
Do I recall correctly that your last album was AT THE TRUCKS in 2006? Any plans for recording with the new band?
My record company released my first three complete albums in CD form this year. In the past my music has been released as compilations. This is the first time the full albums are available as they were recorded: THE ELECTRIC CHAIRS, STORM THE GATES OF HEAVEN and THINGS YOUR MOTHER NEVER TOLD YOU. I’m really looking forward to recording with the Electrick Queers. It’s exciting for me to be creative in the same in the place I was born and raised.
Where can people find Jayne County merchandise online?
All my material can be found on iTunes, eMusic and loads of my material is available on Cherry Red Records.
I’ve been an artist since I was a little kid. I had stacks of coloring books. I’d usually color outside the lines. I’ve always been artistic. Since I’m basically retired from constant touring, I’ve been painting again. A lot of my art is starting to become known and people really like it. This makes me extremely happy. I very often can express more emotion and feeling in my art than in my music. It’s a lot easier on my body these days to paint than frantically jumping up and down, rolling around on stage!
What else are you up to?
I care for 20 cats. If anyone would like to adopt one, please call me asap! (*she giggles*) No, I’m enjoying my new house and being able to take care for abandoned animals. Helping animals is very important to me. My touring schedule never allowed for pets, so I’m really enjoying this time and the ability to help abused animals.
Please get your cats fixed!! It makes me sick how people treat animals. It makes me so mad. I couldn’t bear the thought of these cats being euthanized, so I took them all in and had them fixed. People should not have animals they can’t take care of! It makes me so mad.
What question does no one ever ask you but you wish they did?
I always wondered why no one ever asked me, “Do you know the way to San Jose?”
Special thanks to Jennifer Belgard for her help with this article.