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She performed with Kathi McDonald & Friends. She appeared on an extensive list of rock and blues albums and toured with Long John Baldry prior to his death. She and Baldry enjoyed success in Australia where their duet "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", reached No. 2 in 1980. She was born in Anacortes, Washington, and from 1963 to 1968 she was a vocalist in several bands that played Bellingham, Anacortes, Mt.Vernon, Oak Harbor and other Pacific Northwest venues. Regionally popular bands that benefited from Kathi's incredible vocal talents included The Accents or Bellingham Accents (1963-1965), The Checkers (1964-1965), The Unusuals (1965-1967), and Fat Jack (1966-1968). In 1966 Kathi was only 18 years old when "Babe, It's Me" peaked at No. 1 on the Top 50 at Bellingham's rock radio station KPUG. The song remained at No. 1 for four to five weeks. The single, on the Panorama label, was the first release by The Unusuals and it featured vocals by Kathi and Laurie Vitt, who wrote the song and was a founding member of the band. Shortly thereafter, with Kathi as soloist, the Unusuals released their second single "Summer is Over" and, while it received airplay on local radio, it was a lesser hit in the PNW. Kathi's talent was such that she gravitated to the larger city of Seattle, Washington. While living there, she developed strong San Francisco music connections. In February 2009, Kathi performed at the opening gala for the San Francisco Museum of Performance & Design along with Sam Andrew, welcoming in a new exhibition dedicated to the art and music of San Francisco of the 1965-1975 era.
Childhood (early) years
McDonald performed professionally for the first time around Seattle when she was 12 years old. The first song she fully learned was "Goodnight Irene" by Huddie Leadbetter and at age two she would sing all five verses from her crib. She attributes these evenings to the reason for her late night work habits. In the mid-sixties, Kathi & The Unusuals toured with, and backed, Dewey Martin: (pseudonym Sir Raleigh and previously Sir Raleigh and the Cupons). Martin racked-up a number of hit singles in the Pacific Northwest. Soon after the tour with The Unusuals ended, Dewey Martin achieved fame as the drummer for Buffalo Springfield. The iconic rock band is best remembered for their recording of "For What It's Worth," a Billboard Top 10 hit and a legendary song of civil unrest and protest.
In San Francisco
At the age of 19 she moved to San Francisco and joined Ike & Tina Turner as an Ikette. She then did some work with Big Brother and the Holding Company. In 1973 she recorded a solo album Insane Asylum for Capitol Records. The album was co-produced by David Briggs and Pete Sears. It included great musicians such as Nils Lofgren, John Cipollina and Neal Schon on guitar, Aynsley Dunbar on drums, Boots Hughston on horns, Kathi McDonald & Sly Stone on vocals and with the Pointer Sisters singing backup. Many famous SF Bay Area musicians played on the album, and Kathi sang backup with many great bands. Sears was also her musical arranger and played keyboards and bass, as well as writing several of the album's songs with McDonald.
Post San Francisco
McDonald contributed backing vocals to four tracks that appear on The Rolling Stones 1972 release Exile on Main Street, including the hit single "Tumbling Dice". Her album Save Your Breath was released over 20 years after Insane Asylum appeared. Above and Beyond followed in 1999, featuring contributions from Lee Oskar on harmonica and Brian Auger on keyboards. McDonald devoted more than two decades to recording and performing in collaboration with Long John Baldry, and the duo scored with their version of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" when it was released in Canada. In later years, she also contributed to the Seattle Women in Rhythm and Blues project. She reunited with Big Brother and the Holding Company in California for a concert on New Year's Eve, 1997. She was inducted into the Washington Blues Society's Hall of Fame in 1999.
McDonald died on October 3, 2012, in Seattle, Washington.
List of bands
Here are some groups McDonald was a member of during her career:
- The Accents, A.K.A. The Bellingham Accents
- The Checkers
- The Unusuals
- Fat Jack
- Guilty Pleasures
- Seattle Women
- Detroit Women
- Big Brother and the Holding Company
- Long John Baldry
- Brian Blaine
- Kathi McDonald & Friends
- Leon Russell and the Shelter People
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She has been recorded on the following releases:
- 1966: The Unusuals - Babe, It's Me
- 1966: The Unusuals - Summer Is Over
- 1969: Ike & Tina Turner - Come Together
- 1970: Joe Cocker - Mad Dogs and Englishmen
- 1971: Big Brother and the Holding Company - Be a Brother
- 1971: Freddie King - Getting Ready
- 1971: Leon Russell - Leon Russell and the Shelter People
- 1971: Delaney & Bonnie - To Bonnie from Delaney
- 1971: Rita Coolidge - Rita Coolidge
- 1971: Nigel Olsson - Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus
- 1972: Big Brother and the Holding Company - How Hard It Is
- 1972: The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
- 1972: Grin - All Out
- 1973: Dave Mason - Headkeeper
- 1973: Betty Davis - Betty Davis
- 1974: Kathi McDonald - Insane Asylum
- 1975: Leon Russell - Best Of Leon Russell 1971-1974
- 1976: Long John Baldry - Baldry's Out!
- 1975: Quicksilver Messenger Service - Solid Silver
- 1980: Ike & Tina Turner - Best of Ike & Tina Turner 1969-1974
- 1982: Long John Baldry - Best Of Long John Baldry
- 1983: Toronto - Girls' Night Out
- 1984: Holly Woods & Toronto - Assault and Flattery
- 1986: Long John Baldry - Silent Treatment
- 1991: Long John Baldry - It Still Ain't Easy
- 1994: Kathi McDonald - Save Your Breath
- 1996: Nick Vigarino - Victims Of Cool
- 1997: Kathi McDonald & Nick Vigarino - Ghost of Time
- 1997: Big Brother and the Holding Company - Can't Go Home Again
- 1998: Mark Riley - Lead Suit
- 1999: Kate Hart - Queen Of The Night
- 1999: Seattle Women - Back Porch Gossip
- 1999: Seattle Women - We Are Not Good Girls
- 1999: Kathi McDonald - Above & Beyond
- 2004: Kathi McDonald - Kathi McDonald
- 2010: Kathi McDonald & Friends - On With The Show
- 2012: Colin Kadey - A Brief Glimpse of Paradise
- 2012: Kathi McDonald and Rich Kirch - "Nothin' But Trouble"
- 2012: Freddie Roulette - Jammin' With Friends
- Cashmere, Paul (October 5, 2012). "Kathi McDonald Dead At 64". noise11.com. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2012 July To December". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
- A recollection of Kirk Wilde, KPUG's music director in 1966 and popular 1960's "personality" disc jockey in Bellingham, WA.
- Seida, Linda. "allmusic (Kathi McDonald > Biography)". Allmusic. Retrieved August 1, 2010.
- "Big Brother & The Holding Co". Bbhc.com. January 12, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
- "Kathi McDonald Home Page". Kathimcdonald.com. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
The three recordings, featuring Kathi's singing, are from 1965 to 1966. At that time, she was the female vocalist for The Unusuals -- a regionally popular Pacific Northwest band. Personal recordings and photos at this site were provided by, and the channel was approved by, Laurie Vitt, songwriter, band member affiliated with Kathi McDonald in her formative years, and a founding member of The Unusuals. Included in this collection is the #1 regional hit "Babe, It's Me" (vocals by McDonald and Vitt) and "Summer is Over" (Kathi lead vocalist). Site content, also, contains earlier recordings by the 1960s bands that eventually morphed into the Unusuals, e.g., the Nite People, Ron Petersen and the Accents, Accents/Bellingham Accents.