Deborah Magone is a fabulous fireball of rock 'n' roll energy. Her music is visceral, it's kinetic — you can feel it. With a stage persona as wild as her untamed locks, Magone throws a saddle over classic, blues-stained rock 'n' boogie and rides with a ferocious giddy-up. She's been at it since she was a kid, and at 53 still rolls steady.
Magone has rocked both coasts with varied success. Fleeting brushes with greatness and missed opportunities have not slowed the lady's tenacity and drive. Magone looks at her career as a series of plateaus, with each one more exciting than the one before it — and that's especially true for the coming year.
"Big things are getting ready to pop," Magone says.
The rock 'n' roll bug bit Magone early on. "I went to Catholic grammar school at Most Precious Blood," she says. "And there were two factions: me and everybody else. Everybody else was digging on the Osmond Brothers. And I heard the Jackson 5 and I was like, 'No way,' but nobody listened to me. The Jackson 5 was the first album I got. And I was starting to listen to Janis Joplin at around the same time on a little Sears and Roebuck record player."
Like a lot of kids, she had to feed the rock 'n' roll jones on the down low.
"I used to bust into my older brother's room and raid his record box and play them. Then he, for some reason, got to take guitar lessons, but I wasn't allowed. I was allowed to learn piano," she says.
By age 11 Magone began acting out, cursing like a sailor, smoking and drinking and raising pre-teen hell. "My first doobie was at a Humble Pie concert that same year," she says. "And that's when I started wanting to sing and play music."
But not on the piano.
"I wanted to be radical," she says. "But also it was a way of expressing myself as the oldest female in a strict Italian family. I was expected to do other things, none of which was to express myself."
The guitar in her brother's closet was calling.
"I would sneak into my brother's room whenever he was gone, get his guitar, go into my room, and work on 'Bobby McGee.'"
She worked at it every chance she got.
"My fingers were killing me," says Magone. "My brother's guitar was a big concert folk guitar, so it was really hard for me to wrap my little hands around it."
By age 12, Magone had saved up her allowance and took a trip to the House of Guitars. After laying down $40 and her brother's trade-in, she walked out with her first guitar.
She had also discovered martial arts via TV's "Kung Fu."
"I was going out getting high every night and my dad had to come out looking for me," she says. "Except for Thursday nights, I'd be in front of the TV watching 'Kung Fu,' just mesmerized. 'Wow, this guy has it so under control.'"
In an effort to give his troubled daughter some direction, Magone's father, sensing her fascination, signed her up for karate lessons. Magone was a quick study and to this day maintains a black belt.
But no amount of karate could get the rock 'n' roll monkey off her back. First came solo acoustic, then a country detour. While at an open-mic night at The Red Creek, Magone was approached to join a country band that had been thrown together to make some extra cash.
"We were called After Sundown," she says. "We did one gig at a Moose Lodge as a country band and couldn't stand it any longer, so we turned into southern rock, blues, and boogie."
This is where Magone would find her sound, and where she still reigns supreme today. She played in the band Wired in the late 70's before moving to Los Angeles in 1982. She tried to keep a West Coast version of Wired going but it dissolved into other projects. Magone slogged around the L.A. scene as a solo act and in various outfits trying to achieve lift off. She took straight jobs to fill in the gaps, including a gig as a bouncer at the Hollywood Palace, where she was expected to throw down, defuse, or kick ass in heels.
Despite her determination and talent, success, on a grand scale, eluded her. Like working with Taste Of Honey's Janis Johnson ("Boogie Oogie Oogie") after a mutual friend hooked them up. They did a few gigs, worked on an album for Capitol Records, but legal wrangling got in the way.
"The brass ring kept getting this close...," Magone says.
She move back to Rochester in 2002, where she quickly reestablished herself on the scene as an intense and resilient rocker
Nationally, Magone's luck shifted at the 2012 LA Music Awards, where she took home the Producer's Choice Award for Best Female Rock Performer, and was also nominated for her CD and video "It's All About Money." Magone was one of seven acts chosen to perform at the Hollywood Palace — where she used to bounce. Producer Ron Nevison, whose credits include The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Bad Company, and Heart, was in the crowd. He liked what he heard, they pow-wowed on the phone, and now Magone says he's producing her next record.
The brass ring moves a little closer, though Magone is content in chasing the music, not rainbows. It's about the fans.
"I came to an enlightenment that it's not about me," she says. "It's about them. It's about me being a service to them. It's about getting the music and its healing and its message. My karma in this lifetime is expression on a global level, helping people on their path, to have my music heard on a global level."