With Bonnie Raitt blaring on the radio, Kari Gaffney was doing her dusting and singing her heart out when her husband mentioned that she had a really nice voice.
"That's nice, but you don't have to say that," she said, and kept on cleaning.
"No, I'm serious," he told her. "You should take voice lessons."
She opened up the Yellow Pages, found a voice teacher 15 minutes from her house and signed up for lessons, $30 for a half-hour.
"My husband thinks I can sing, but I don't," she told the teacher. "I'm basically here to prove that I'm right."
A few do-so-mi-do's and the teacher said she was wrong.
"Skeptic that I am, I said, `That's something I'd expect you to say to get me to come back,"' says Ms. Gaffney, 31, a Californian who recently moved to Hephzibah.
So the teacher gave her free lessons.
About six months later, she put together the Kari Gaffney Band, writing songs on her lunch hour from her job as a contract manager at a California construction company.
She doesn't play an instrument, and she doesn't read music. She just hums it and writes it down.
"I hear music in my head -- no I'm not crazy," she says. "Yanni plays by ear."
Her first gig was at Linda's Doll Hut, a nightclub about 10 minutes from Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
"It's a dive," she says, sitting on one of the twin sofas in her home in Hephzibah. "It fits about 80 people."
Eighty people covered in tattoos and black leather jackets, swing dancing in between the pool tables, she says.
Six months later her demo was out.
"The accolades started growing as the buzz went around town," she says.
Her boss came to all her shows.
"After every show he'd come up to me and say, `You're gonna be at work on Monday, right?"'
But after a year she quit her day job as a contract manager.
"I hope you don't have to come back," her boss told her.
It has been three years. Since then, she has opened for Pat Benatar, James Brown and Brian White.
About a year ago, after her divorce, she met her fiance, David Moseley, and moved to Hephzibah. She rehearses in an empty building in Blythe.
She performs Thursday at FlashBack, 2701 Washington Road.
Her old band earned a lot of exposure on the West Coast. Now she's just covering the other half of the country.
She has a 17-page Web site and gets about 150 e-mails a day. She writes back to all of them.
The band you hear on the CD isn't the one you'll see playing at FlashBack. Her band didn't move with her, so this is the Kari Gaffney band, Southeastern edition. If she makes it to the Big Time, some of the people from here and some of the people from California will become the national band.
"Our music has a lot of heart and power, but it's not angry music," she says.
It's real. With lyrics like, "If you're what he wants, how come he's not with you? You say he's lonely if he stays at home. You say you call him to see if he's alone, all alone ... If he wants you, how come he stays with me?"
"We tell the women's side through music," she says.
What: The Kari Gaffney Band
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: FlashBack, 2701 Washington Road
How much: $5
To hear the Kari Gaffney Band, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8100. You'll hear part of the song If You're What He Wants from the self-titled CD.
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