In 1987, a hard rock band trying to scratch and claw their way into the scene had two choices: they could either cash in on the popular trend by going the glam-rock route that was burning up the charts, or they could come up with something fresh, something new, something invigorating in its refusal to follow others like a blind little lamb.
CHARLOTTE cast their lot with the second option and forged a heavy blues-drenched metal sound that conjured up the kind of restless rock and roll magic that roars and roams and slithers dangerously through dark, swampy, smoky places. In other words, they said the devil be damned and decided to do their own thing, march to their own drum.
It wasn’t always that way, mind you; in 1986, Eric Ganz (lead vocals), Nick DiBacco (guitar), and Vinnie Cacciotti (guitar), accompanied by a revolving-door rhythm section, did indeed dabble with the glam-metal trappings of the day. But they always yearned to “put the voodoo back in rock n’ roll,” to let the less-polished sound of the 1970’s infiltrate their songs and influence their style. After crossing paths with Chris Colovas (bass) and Eric D. Brewton (drums) at a party in Los Angeles and sharing their musical vision with them, a rehearsal took place and everyone instantly knew they were meant to play together. God or Fate or Lady Luck or whatever you want to call it had brought them together for one hell of a rock and roll ride.
Some back-and-forth banter between the band regarding the so-called “sins of mankind” led to a conversation about legendary women who left their mark on history through less than reputable means which in turn led to a discussion about the legend of CHARLOTTE the Harlot, the most beautiful of whores. Seeking symbolism, the band shortened the name to CHARLOTTE, then barreled ahead full throttle in the hopes of accomplishing their self- proclaimed mission, which was to play 70’s-influenced, blues-infused melodic hard rock/ metal songs that conjured up the primal beast that lurks within us all and delivered in the fun department at the same time.
During CHARLOTTE’s run, reviewers often took special note of the band’s lyrical prowess, but while Ganz penned the lyrics, the music that rocked the rafters and nailed everyone to the walls with its moody aggression was a collaborative effort. Each member fully contributed to the arrangements, adding their input, tweaking the tunes until sonic perfection was attained.
It seems only fitting that a band named after a wicked woman played their first gig at a club called Jezebel’s in Orange County, California. With a unique sound influenced by Great White, Guns N’ Roses, and Led Zeppelin, they quickly garnered barrels of buzz and rode the wave of their rapidly rising popularity to other gigs, including renowned venues like the Whisky a Go Go, Roxy, Troubadour, and FM Station, to name just a few. During their intense drive to grab metal’s elusive brass ring, they opened for the likes of XYZ, Vixen, EZO, and Paul Stanley, among others. Through it all, they were never content to follow the trend, always staying true to themselves and delivering vibrant, creative, unpredictable hard rock music.
But while wholeheartedly serious about their music, the band was never afraid to pause for a laugh or two. There was the time Nick stripped naked and took a swim in the fountain of the Cat and Fiddle Pub in Hollywood. Then, during the Gulf War, while playing a show at the Whisky, the band set a cardboard effigy of Saddam Hussein on fire and was later banned from the club. Chris still chuckles as he recalls opening for Cry Wolf at The Palace in Hollywood. The guitarist of that band had a glove on his left hand with the fingers cut out as he furiously played up and down the frets while waiting for the gear to be set up. When Nick asked him what was up with the glove, the guitarist replied very seriously, “This is how I warm up, what do YOU do?” Nick looked at him a second, then raised a glass of beer and replied, “THIS is how I warm up, dude.”
But beyond the laughter and the amusing antics loomed a band hungry for success, as long as that success came on their own terms. They had edged away from the hot, commercially viable, cinch-to-market glam-rock sound in favor of a style that pulled from a wide range of influences, but that was who they were and they refused to alter their identity in order to cram themselves into an easy-to-categorize mold. “We were just looking for another brave soul to sign us as just a rock band,” states Ganz. “Nothing more, nothing less.” Brave souls from Arista Records, Giant, and Mercury all nibbled, but none of them were quite brave enough to take that final step and give the band a shot. Despite major buzz, despite selling out every venue they played, despite magazines like Metalized, Metal Forces, and Rock Scene hailing CHARLOTTE as the next big thing, it just never happened.
But no matter what, just like the harlot after which they are named, CHARLOTTE’s legend and legacy continue to live on.