Mistress Mary - Housewife LP
The most beguiling and likely most rare piece of the Byrds/Burritos/Bakersfield/LA puzzle is this LP, the lone release from Mary Afton (aka Mistress Mary). Originally released in 1969 and entitled Housewife, the record was intended as a demo to showcase her songwriting talents to the general music industry (and specifically Elvis, whom she made sure received a copy). Though the original packaging – which includes a very '60s Hollywood glamor shot, some completely in-the-know or completely out-to-lunch hand written notes and three more photos on the back that include, variously, a belly dancer's outfit, a refrigerator and the world's longest cigarette holder – betrays some pretty heavy wine-drunk-by-noon vibes, the songs themselves show a maturity and talent that deserved more than this one forgotten, if ever known at all, collection.
Mary was friends with folks in the extended LA country-rock scene and this record was put to tape at Darrell Cotton's studios with help from Clarence White (The Byrds), Carl Walden (crack LA steel guitarist) and other unidentified session players that probably came from the extended Byrds/Burritos/Gary Paxton/Bakersfield International/Alshire family. With a voice that's a bit reminiscent of Barbara Keith and a general vibe that falls somewhere between the aforementioned country-rock scene and a more mature Nancy Sinatra, or as Mary herself puts it in the liner notes, "country-western ... some soft-soul ... some what-ever," the record is a truly great example of late '60s LA that very few have had the pleasure of experiencing before this reissue. Mary's lyrics range from playful and goofy to truly cutting and deadly and the backing is spot-on. When none of the attempts to connect with the industry at large panned out, Mary moved on to various other gigs including disco dance instructor, leaving behind this one LP, essential to any fan of LA country-rock and private press obscurities.