A Tribute to a Wayout Mama

As a young rock-n-roll chick, in the summer of 1992, I had the pleasure of meeting my very first Wayout Mama. I would be remiss if I wrote another entry of my own without acknowledging her- the original Wayout Mama!

I had been recruited by the band Lost Cause to play keyboards in their all Doors tribute band, Lizard King. Band member, Mike Hesson met me at a DC101 Battle of the Bands in Bowie, MD. We had no idea then that 20 years later we would still be playing music together, but that’s a whole other story.

Mike and I were busy working out parts to Doors songs in the garage where he and his two brothers and fellow band mates, Ray and Ben, lived. It was a warm spring day and we were hanging out, getting to know each other and learning songs. The main thing I remember about that day was working out the solo to “Light My Fire” when she walked in.

Now I’d heard about her already… and was secretly jealous of these boys. Their dad was a nationally honored banjo picker/guitarist and their mom was a singer who ran the circuit up and down the east coast in country, rock and disco bands. All three sons were musicians and had their own band. This was like the real live Partridge Family, but you know, only cooler.  While my family is made up of 70% musicians, my direct parents weren’t- though my dad did sing in choirs and play the sax for a bit. My parents were both teachers/school administrators. Not quite the rock-n-roll upbringing I craved.

In walked Frannie Hesson. She was everything I’d imagined.  She was so down-home friendly, personable and funny- and even for just being in the garage, her persona was bigger than life. She wasn’t like the other moms. I have to say, I was a little intimidated, knowing she’d been there and done that herself. Mike introduced us and she said, “Well, play me something!” So I played and sang “Melissa” by the Allman Brothers.  She then played and sang, “Bobby McGee”, by Janis Joplin. It was beautiful. I feel so lucky to have had that moment with her. It was years and years until I would see her again. Lost Cause/Lizard King went their separate ways for 10 years, reuniting under the name “The Electric Company” in around 2001.

I’d see Frannie from time to time at gigs or at one of the sons’ houses.  She’d give me little pieces of advice on stage attire and song choices, and was always encouraging. I always took everything she said to heart. Who would know better than her? There was a kinship through music- especially being a woman in music- with her. I never had to explain anything to her- she’d already lived it!

Now, when I first got pregnant, I have to admit, I was a “might bit nervous”, as Karl from Sling Blade would say. How was I going to do all this? The baby, my job, the band(s)…. oh, my!  I was talking to Ray about it and he said, “Don’t worry about it man, talk to my mom… she totally did it, and there were three of us!” I thought, “Oh, yeah… duh. It’s NOT impossible… Frannie had THREE kids and still did gigs!” I kept that in my heart and mind whenever I would worry about my situation. It was totally doable. It might take some planning, but it was going to be ok.

Two Sundays ago, we did our yearly show at Allen Pond in Bowie, MD. I was hoping I would see Frannie, as I had my little 2 month old with me, and I wanted to introduce her and pick her brain a little. I didn’t see her. Mr. Hesson and I were talking and he said in reference to my little one, “Now don’t you worry if he starts crying when you’re up there- there’s plenty of people to take care of him out here.” I laughed and said, “What would Frannie have done? Did she ever have that happen? Hey is she coming?” He didn’t know. She ended up not coming this year, and I thought, “Oh well, maybe next time.”

As fate would have it, there wouldn’t be a next time.

The following Saturday, she was the passenger in a car that was hit head-on. There is one more angelic voice in Heaven.

She left behind a musical legacy through her sons by passing along her gift to them. If I can manage that alone, I will have done my job.

Please take a moment to listen to her. You won’t be disappointed.


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