Local blues belter Candye Kane lost her long battle with cancer on Friday, May 6. She had been hospitalized in Oceanside on January 4, to await transfer to Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, and signs were at first positive that she might beat the disease once again but, alas, it was not to be.
Kane first gained attention after being signed by CBS Records in 1986, though the label later dropped her. Then married to Thomas Yearsley of the Paladins, she was touched by the music of Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown, and more. Her self-released 1991 album Burlesque Swing caught the ear of Texas impresario Clifford Antone, who signed her to a deal with Antone’s Records.
Candye Kane singing at the Oasis House Concerts in 2010
She moved to Oceanside around 1991 and began evolving musically into an accomplished blues belter. Rounder/Bullseye Records signed her in 1995, releasing The Toughest Girl Alive, produced by Scott Billington. Four albums followed on the German RUF label, including the Bob Margolin-produced Guitar’d and Feathered. In 2008, Ruf Records released a live album featuring Kane, Deborah Coleman, and Dani Wilde.
That year, however, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
A musical based on Kane's early life story, The Toughest Girl in the World, debuted in workshops at the Diversionary Theatre in January 2009. The production includes many of her songs, with guest pianist Sue Palmer, a longtime Kane associate.
In summer 2011, she released a new album, Sister Vagabond. “I take things one day at a time and today I am feeling great and very optimistic about my new CD,” Kane said. "It’s been awesome to write and co-produce again with my guitarist Laura Chavez. I am grateful for every chance I get to make music live, or in the studio. Most people are given only three months to live after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and three years later, I am still here. So any opportunity I have to create music makes me humbled and grateful.”
Sister Vagabond hit #1 on the Living Blues Charts, as well as earning a pick-to-click slot on the XM/Sirius radio program Bluesville. It was also nominated for a German Blues Award. Her stage play Toughest Girl Alive returned to the Moxie Theater in early 2012.
In August 2012, she won Best Blues Album at the San Diego Music Awards, as well as receiving a Courage in Music trophy. Having mostly recovered from pancreatic cancer surgery, she then embarked on a tour of the Midwest, East Coast, Florida, and then on to France and Holland.
Her 2013 CD Coming Out Swingin' was engineered and co-produced by ex-husband Thomas Yearsley and Laura Chavez. In January 2014, she served as one of the judges at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, one of the largest blues gatherings in the world.
Last year, Kane provided songs for a new musical called Eternally Bad, based on a graphic novel by underground cartoonist Trina Robbins and premiering at the Moxie Theatre during the 2015 Comic-Con International.
A longtime friend and supporter of the Reader, she will be missed.