Let me tell you about Fanny.
In 1968, Alice de Buhr abandoned Iowa for California. She’s a drummer, a seventeen-year-old with a dream of rock stardom. Alice joined the Svelts, a cover band, and briefly toured the West. Later that year, she left the band and founded Wild Honey, a group that played Motown tunes. After a year of touring the Midwest, the band recruited the former guitarist and bass player of the Svelts, sisters June and Jean Millington, who had migrated from the Philippines to Sacramento only a few years before.
A secretary to an industry man discovered Wild Honey at an open-mic appearance at the renowned Troubadour Club in LA. Soon after, in 1969, Alice, June, and Jean were signed to Reprise Records, and before recording their debut album, they hired keyboardist Nickey Barclay to complete the new all-female lineup. They renamed the band to Fanny. June would later explain, “We really didn’t think of Fanny as a sexual term. We felt it was like a woman’s spirit watching over us.” When they toured the UK, they were somewhat dismayed to learn that Fanny was a “rude” word.
Fanny recorded five studio albums, and toured America and Europe extensively, becoming something of a go-to opening act for many of the great bands of the time. They achieved two top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, but sadly, the band never enjoyed wide-spread success. They disbanded in 1975.
All four of them continued to have successful careers as session musicians. June and Jean — now two elderly ladies — still rock out, occasionally playing gigs with young musicians that attend June’s music academy.
One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest… rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary… they’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done.
— David Bowie, Rolling Stone (1999)
They were described by Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association as, “the first honest to goodness ‘real’ girl rock band.” Here they are performing on German television.