Singer Didi Stewart migrated to Boston from New Jersey to study at Berklee College of Music. Now she teaches there, as associate professor for voice. During the years in between, she belted out songs in the trio Long Tall Sally, Didi Stewart & the Amplifiers, then in Girls Night Out. The Amplifiers came about in the mid-’70s because, according to Stewart, “I eventually just had to form a band because, for a girl at the time, it was too hard to get into one.”
Starting with three male and three female members, but going through many lineup changes over the years, the Amplifiers were eventually signed by Don Kirshner in a deal that resulted in an album two years later, but crashed and burned when the company went bankrupt. The band soon broke up, but a short time later, Stewart was hanging out with original Amplifier members Sandy Martin and Kathy Burkly, and the idea to form an all-girl band, just for one night, came up.
The initial version of Girls Night Out (named after a song on the Amplifiers album) was Stewart, Martin, Burkly, Alizon Lissance, Cercie Miller, Patty Larkin, and Myanna, dressed up in paisley mini-dresses and fishnet stockings, and wearing white lipstick. The 1983 show, at the Inn Square Men’s Bar in Cambridge, was a smash. The Phoenix called them the best new band in Boston. After a second successful gig at the Tam, they decided to be a band, though Larkin left for a solo career, and was replaced by Wendy Sobel.
Though Stewart had already written plenty of original music, the band mostly played covers, of folks such as the Ronettes, Dusty Springfield, Mary Wells, and the Velvelettes, though they did have local hits with Stewart’s songs “Matter of Time” and “Affair of the Heart.”
Between 1983 and 1987, they played all over New England, and released an EP, becoming known as a pop band with a horn section. Toward the end of that run, they went to New York to do some showcases. “But we were in our early 30s at that point,” remembers Stewart. “And the rap from the labels was that we weren’t young enough to be a girl group. It was profoundly sexist, but that was the music business.”
There have been a few reunions over the years, the most recent one about a decade ago at the Somerville Theater. Stewart went through a phase of doing jazz and standards, and currently gets together with Sobel and Lissance and drummer Ed Scheer (The Love Dogs) every few months to play Girls Night Out songs in a band called the TriStates at Smoken’ Joe’s BBQ in Brighton.
(by Ed Symkus)