Named for 1960s Delta songstress Misty Joy, Arkansas native Misty White was destined to carry and pass the torch of the vintage Go-Go Girl, albeit Southern style. By the mid-1980s she was schooling herself in Memphis, studying History of the Blues at University by day, while nights were spent behind the drums or on guitar. Then as now, the music scene revolved around man-boys, yet Misty found a turbo-charged vehicle for expression as a member of the Hellcats of Memphis, the inimitable all-girl swamp-surf band.
Sprung from an unholy alliance with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, the Hellcats proved even more unapproachable than their mentor. Their albums on French label New Rose Records include Cherry Mansions and Hoodoo Train, which capture the band’s earthy exuberance, murky blues influences and pop sensibilities. The Memphis maelstrom of DIY punkabilly churned as Misty branched into her own concept, one that included twin sister Kristi White on guitar (and occasionally, spoons). Called The Alluring Strange and featuring Misty on drums, they shook the stage during the wild rumpus of the Antenna Club era, releasing Will You Marry Me?on vinyl and cd before morphing into Misty’s next project with Kristi: The Chiselers. The twins toured Europe, Canada and the United States, honing their raucous sound and leaving audiences sweaty and glad.
Memphis’s underground heyday saw Misty play hostess to a slew of national and international as well as local bands, as she created venues, recorded steadily and founded several long-running mid-south music festivals. Sitting in on drums with icons like R.L. Burnside, Joe Walsh and Alex Chilton, making countless people dance, Misty joined Kristi to appear in several Hollywood blockbusters filmed in Memphis, including the Jerry Lee Lewis story Great Balls of Fire, and The People vs. Larry Flynt. The collaboration continued as Misty’s next project returned to a strictly all-girl line-up, the Zippin Pippins. The name pays homage to Elvis’s favorite rollercoaster, a (now-vanished) Memphis landmark; this period sparked the first collaboration with showman Harlan T. Bobo, as Midtown Memphis’s energetic music scene soared to new heights.
Elvis, central to Misty’s rock-and-roll ethos, played a key role in bringing a soulmate to her door. Bang Records founder Philippe Lombardi took Misty’s “Elvis Tour” around the Bluff City—an information-packed funfest like all things Misty White-related—and was smitten. The two married, with weddings in both Memphis and Toulouse, and began performing together in Philippe’s band, Staretz. Bang Records showcased Misty’s original songs with the release of Mistyin 2013, followed by I Need a Ridein 2014. Tragedy struck the following year, when Philippe Lombardi died suddenly at the age of 48, victim of an undiagnosed meningitis infection. Misty resolved to remain in France to carry on Philippe’s musical legacy, turning her broken heart into fervent art.
This summer’s release of Misty White’s third solo album, Bang Records’ Worth the Wait,is aptly named. The title song’s mix of pain, hope and yearning sets the bar. Featuring previously unreleased recordings of her late husband Philippe Lombardi on guitar, Worth the Waitis both love-letter and phoenix-like return for Misty White, proving that music is one thing in life that, thankfully, never stops.