Three High Flying Women
Pamela Robin Brandt
Music is Helen’s main passion, and she is so grateful to have been a member of The Deadly Nightshade, to have lived its amazing herstory, and to have co-written all of its songs.
In total, Helen has written, performed and recorded over 150 songs, and released four albums of original music on her Montana Blake label.
With her Deadlies bandmate Pam, Helen continued to compose for "Sesame Street", co-writing almost a dozen songs for the Muppets, including one recorded by Big Bird, "Wheels On My Feet". The song is featured on the Sony DVD of all-time bird classics, "Big Bird Sings."
After the Deadlies first incarnation, Helen fronted a Washington, DC area band known as Magenta Rose with Sindy Scalfi. Their original songs were a combination of Hall & Oates and Fleetwood Mac rock, featuring Helen’s electric guitar and her wild rock fiddle.
She then led two bands, the Helen Hooke Band and Helen Hooke and Red Boots, performing her songs at numerous NYC and New England venues, as well as at the 150th anniversary of the first Women's Rights Convention, in Seneca Falls, NY.
Helen also enjoys and has fun playing covers. She put together two retro all-female dance/disco bands, The Femmes and HoneySpots, proving beyond doubt that women could pull off a Barry White growl.
A Cashbox critic commented, "I didn't know you could get a Hendrix solo out of a violin. For the record, the way violinist Helen Hooke does it, you can."
Helen, Anne and Pamela reunited as The Deadly Nightshade in 2009, and played in the New York and New England area until Pam’s death in 2015. Subsequently, Helen and Anne joined forces with the amazing Lisa Koch and began performing in Arizona in early 2020 when the pandemic hit. Anne and Helen look forward to continuing The Deadly Nightshade tradition when the stars align.
As a freelance fiddler, Helen has recorded and/or toured with the Okra All-Stars, James Mastro's Strange Cave, Gretchen Langheld's ensemble House Afire, and Blondie (1999's comeback album No Exit).
Since the mid 1980s she has lived in Manhattan, where she worked day jobs as a financial wizard between music gigs. She also spends time in Eastern Long Island — home to one of the world's most festive women's communities — where she has hosted numerous band reunion mini-festivals.
Helen currently performs in a local Long Island band called Mudflats, where she plays old time fiddle tunes and good time music; and in a folk band called Orient Express with local standouts, including Roma Baran, who produced The Deadly Nightshade’s “Never Never Gonna Stop.”
After six years on the road with The Deadly Nightshade, Anne resolved to bag professional music and get a life.
With the end of the RCA record contract looming ahead, Anne returned to another love: feminist organizing. She went to work for the Women’s Action Alliance, a part of the Ms. Magazine group of agencies. There she worked for the National Women’s Agenda project, a lobbying coalition of traditional women’s organizations.
Occasionally her resolve weakened, however. Over the years, she dug out the guitar, washboard, and Mr. Big dancing doll for Deadly Nightshade reunion gigs at the tenth National Women’s Music Festival and the first New England Women’s Music Festival.
Anne also served as studio producer of several recordings done by Pam’s band Lowlife, a gay and lesbian collaboration that featured Michael Callen on keyboards and as lead singer. The cuts were later released on his albums “Purple Heart” and “Legacy.”
Life changed dramatically for her in 1985, when after a long search for a suitable father, Anne’s longtime partner became pregnant. Their daughter was born in 1986.
Anne moved to Tucson with her family, where she, her partner, the baby’s father and his partner began to forge a new kind of family. Their stories were told in two articles in Ms. Magazine in the late 1980s.
Soon there was a family business, Bowen & Bailey, a very fancy deli with a bar. Other odd jobs followed: business manager of a stock photography agency, house manager for the local regional theater company, legal secretary, and finally Lunch Lady at her neighborhood middle school.
Helen called her in 2008 to talk about a band reunion. After a year of resuscitating chops, the band somehow managed to get back together and begin performing. Anne realized that her first love, music, was indeed her true love.
As a San Francisco music critic once noted, “They all sing and harmonize well, but I am drawn to Bowen’s voice. When she sings ‘Something Blue,’ her voice hits a spot in my ear that usually gets left out.”
Her early musical career in highly-arranged bands that she helped create (like The Deadly Nightshade), convinced Pam that learning to fake it would be fun. She spent the next dozen years freelancing on the New York City country music circuit, playing two to five nights a week with "different strange bands" — some, such as King Vito and the Bronx Cowboys, very strange.
She, along with AIDS activist, soprano, and fellow song writer Michael Callen, formed the mixed lesbian and gay original rock band Lowlife. In their four years together, the five-piece "politically correct rock and roll sleaze" band played CBGB, the Pyramid, the Saint, Limelight, Studio 54, and most of New York's other best known 1980s clubs.
Village Voice critic Robert Christgau praised one of Brandt's original songs as "a particularly direct and poignant AIDS-inspired anthem," and another sillier number as "charmingly early '60s enough to explain the group's peculiar though very positive 'girl group' rap." The New York Native cited her "driving can't-stop-the-beat bass."
After moving to Miami, Pam joined the female hard rock band Cactus Rose.
In her day job as a journalist, she was primarily a food critic, and with Lindsy Van Gelder, co-wrote two books: "Are You Two... Together" (a book of lesbian/gay-oriented travel essays for Random House), and for Simon & Schuster, "The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart of Lesbian America" — which features a chapter on the Michigan Women's Music Festival.
It is with deep sadness and utmost sorrow that we announce the loss of Pamela, suddenly and unexpectedly, of a massive heart attack in her home on Sunday August 2, 2015. We started playing music together in 1967. We are so grateful for the time we had together, and for her brilliant, quirky originality. Our music is still a celebration of her life.