Singing with The New Christy Minstrels

ImageHere’s a picture of me at the Guitar Center in Manchester, Connecticut.  After 15 years of NOT singing, playing or even listening to any music, I followed my brother, William in to the store to watch him buy guitar strings.  I LOVE it in there!

Instead of buying guitar strings, I observed that William was going around in a frenzy, asking questions to the sales guys and somehow I knew it was going to involve me. (I couldn’t hear what he was saying to them)”

He told me to sit on a stool and they put this acoustic, bass guitar in my lap.  ”What are you doing, Bill?”  The guitar felt stiff and foreign.  Then another one replaced it. It didn’t feel right, and I was embarrassed because it has been  (holy $#^%)  35 years since I’ve played bass and when you’re at the guitar center EVERYBODY at least LOOKS like they can play anything.  ”How about that cool looking electric stand-up bass in the corner?”  ”Forget it, it costs $2000.”

You see I used to play stand-up bass for The New Christy Minstrels.  I was their first female bass player (My big claim to fame).But I really had forgotten how to play.  

William and I were sort of conservative “hippies” in the late 70′s.  We had put together between us a musical duo.  William played guitar and piano, I played piano and percussion, including my favorite Royal point sierra bean, and we both sang, of course. I also had the job of dressing in some pretty granny gown and looking good.  William was sure that he needed me to “Make it big.”

With our father’s help, we bought the DD (double dinette) 22 foot Coachman motor home.  We pulled out one of the dinettes and replaced it with our electric Baldwin piano.  William is 5 years older than me, and at ages 19 and 24 we embarked to play music and see the country. Our parents assumed William would keep a sharp eye on me. Well, I think HE needed more monitoring than me.

Our strategy was to drive to an interesting area, find an agent, and while they spent a month finding us a club to play in, we would “sight see.”  Then we would play for about a month or two and be on our way again to our next “must see.”  

That’s what we did!  William is VERY outgoing and thrives on this lifestyle, which, as a matter of GREAT fact, is still doing this today. (Literally, he just arrived in Florida yesterday to do a tour of shows for the next 2 months while living IN HIS GORGEOUS motor home.)

One time when we were in Nashville for the purpose of pitching William’s songs to whoever he could, we watched a husband and wife play they’re act at our campground.  They were REALLY good, and they should have been;  we were in Nashville.  What mesmerized me was  the woman was playing a beautiful stand-up bass.  I remember saying to William, “I can do that!”   We talked about it a lot after that, and when we reached Denver, we found a bass for $200 in the Denver newspaper.  It soon became a big part of our act.  I am attracted to the bass because I CAN HEAR IT.  I didn’t have hearing aids back then, but was definitively straining to hear. 


“California is the place you gotta be, so we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverly.” I remembered feeling just like Jed and Granny when we drove up Rodeo drive in our motor home.   We didn’t exactly “move” there, but we parked in front of the New Christy Minstrel’s office in Hollywood across from CBS studios and dragged our instruments up the 3 flights of stairs to audition, even though they told us NOT to come.  

There in the office where the walls were covered in gold records, the Christies secretary, Barbara, told us “go home.” But a male voice rang out from an inner office (Sid Garris) asking Barbara “How do they look?”  She said  ”pretty good.”  and he said  ”send them in.”

To make this very long story short, which I may elaborate on in future posts, we were then always announced on stage as  “William and Nanette Florian, our Brother and sister team from New England.”  And so we toured with the New Christy Minstrels.

Back at the guitar center, with only a cochlear processor to now hear through,(I am now completely deaf)  William grabs this beautiful cherry colored electric bass and puts it on my lap.  He clicked my picture and something clicked in ME that this was going to be my new guitar.  It felt good. 

Hurray for me, I’m practicing like a banshee!  I bought a case and am flying to Florida with it in 2 weeks to practice with William.  He thinks I’m going to join his show when he performs in New England.  That MAY be, and that MAY NOT be. Remember I can only hear what the cochlear processor allows me to hear and I can't hear pitch changes.

  I have learned the whole show, and goofing around is fine, but what if something changes on stage and I’m not hearing what’s going on?  We’ll see.  I’ll let you know!

By the way, check out my brother at AND check out my new song: You’d Help Me By Loving Me at

Love Nanette