San Antonio-born Rosie Flores is a Texas tornado of a rockabilly/alt.-country singer-guitarist, as evidenced during a blazing Friday night show recently that was part of her residency that began in May at Austin’s C-Boy’s Heart & Soul.
Flores was 12 when her family moved from Texas to San Diego, where beginning in high school she knocked around in different bands and, on the nightclub circuit in the 1970s, mostly sang traditional country and developed her songwriting chops before forming Rosie and the Screamers.
Repulsed by the urban cowboy scene and its pop-country sensibilities, the Screamers switched to rockabilly, headed north and found success in Hollywood, where she mingled with X, Los Lobos, the Blasters, fellow San Diegans the Beat Farmers and her onetime boyfriend, Dwight Yoakam.
Tired of the dual role as singer and bandleader, Flores broke up the Screamers in 1982 and joined the all-female “cow-punk” band the Screamin’ Sirens. She later went solo and was nominated as the Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 1986. She hit the Billboard charts for the first time a year later with the single “Crying Over You” on her self-titled debut album for Warner Bros./Reprise.
Having joined Wanda Jackson and Asleep at the Wheel on national tours in the mid-1990s, Flores was again fully entrenched as a singer-songwriter-bandleader by 2006 in Austin, where the City Council proclaimed Aug. 31 Rosie Flores Day. At that recent C-Boy’s show, she joked that she considers Rosie Flores Day a yearly commemoration even if the council only meant it as a one-off.
She deserves annual veneration not only for keeping rockabilly alive—with her own gumbo of jazz, blues, R&B, country and Tex-Mex influences—but for her reverence of female rockabilly artists who came before her.
Flores’ 1995 album Rockabilly Filly included vocals by Jackson and Janis Martin, who was also lavished with a concert tribute Flores performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum and elsewhere. Flores also brought the so-called “female Elvis” into a Blanco, Texas, recording studio in 2007 for what would be Martin’s first album in 30 years. Flores’ producing efforts and narration of the rockabilly documentary Whole Lotta Shakin’ earned her a Peabody Award that year.
Sadly, The Blanco Sessions was Martin’s last album before her death from lung cancer in 2012. When no record labels would pick it up, Flores mounted a Kickstarter campaign to get it released.
During the C-Boy’s set, Flores covered songs by Yoakam and Blasters co-founder Dave Alvin but mostly played her own material, including cuts from her album, Simple Case of the Blues, that comes out on UK-based The Last Record Co. in February. A standout Flores performed with her unrelenting guitar licks was the single “Drive Drive Drive,” which you can now download on iTunes. A dynamo who, along with her mostly younger bandmates, showed no signs of wanting to leave the stage, Flores finally had to give it up to the headlining Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan.
Chatting afterwards with a couple Orange Countians, Flores recalled that back in the Hollywood days, a record company exec who had signed some of her Hollywood friends told her she was not a good enough guitarist. “I don’t know if it was because I’m a woman or Hispanic,” she said without a hint of bitterness.
Flores went on to seek assurances the pair would come out for her upcoming Huntington Beach show, although she confided she had never heard of Gallagher’s. (“Is it OK?” she asked. “Yes, ma’am,” she was told.) She explained that she told her agent to book her somewhere in Southern California to offset the cost of traveling to San Diego for her 50th high school reunion. See Rosie Flores and you’ll want to name the day after her.
Rosie Flores; the Timm Saxton Band; Doc Pittillo & the Honkeys at Gallagher’s Irish Pub & Grill, 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 113, Huntington Beach, (714) 536-2422; gallagherspubhb.com. Fri. [sept 21], 8 p.m. $10. 21+.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.