Queen for a day

DOING THE FAN-DANGO | Gary Mullen was a huge fan of Queen before filling in as the legendary bisexual frontman Freddie Mercury in the tribute show coming to Music Hall.

Gary Mullen, frontman for cover band One Night of Queen, fills Mercury’s tight pants just fine

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Cover bands get no respect. You can’t help but wonder why they play other people’s music, never their own. They have the musicianship, so why not the song catalogue?

It’s a tough argument to make. But when it gets to the level of world tours and actually paying the bills, well, Gary Mullen might have a little something to say about what he does.

“We have side projects, but this takes up most of our year,” says the lead singer for the group The Works. “We’re all creating music and have other bands. Music is in all of our lifeblood, but we have fun with this.”

“This” would be Mullen and his band, the guys behind One Night of Queen, a show of Queen hits that stops in Dallas on Saturday. Yes, Mullen fills in for perhaps the frontman of all frontmen, Freddie Mercury. The band is convincing enough that it’s been turned into a concert experience and takes them on the road worldwide. Fortunately, Mullen doesn’t get swept up in false ideas of whom he plays and who he is.

“I have to approach it with a bit of caution,” he says in a charming, thick Scottish accent. “I’m not Freddie, but I do want it to be convincing. I try to treat him in a way that’s the guy onstage, but I’m the guy offstage. I have to do that with a bit of caution.”

Life changed for the former computer salesman when he won an American Idol-like TV contest, Stars in Their Eyes, in 2000. Using that boost, he and his band took their Queen act on the road, selling out venues and growing it into an entirely higher level. The show replicates a Queen concert at their most successful period, touching mostly on the mid-’80s Magic Tour. Adding flavors of the band in the ‘70s and ‘90s, One Night of Queen has garnered the attention of original Queen member Brian May and even “massive Queen fan” Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The bisexual Mercury, of course, is legendary to the LGBT continuum and Mullen, who is straight, and his band have found their gay fans along the way.

“We’ve played a gay Pride festival in Scotland and they showed us a damn good time,” he says. “Although one couple wanted me to come home with them.”

No doubt they got caught up in the moment as Mullen says the fans do. But he admits that he’s not like Mercury in one way that might have disappointed those boys.

“Well, I’m more phallically challenged,” he confesses.

Gotcha. So long as the music is killer, we will let you rock us.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

True blues

Cyndi Lauper still gives a damn about gays and the tint of her newest music venture

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer  lopez@dallasvoice.com

Cyndi Lauper
GOT RHYTHM | Lauper’s tour focuses on her new sound, yet she’ll still deliver her pop classics backed up by her blues band.

CYNDI LAUPER with David Rhodes.
House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Aug. 11 at 8 p.m.  $30–$55.
HouseOfBlues.com.

………………………………

Dallas’ summer music calendar has been hopping for LGBT audiences, from Lady Gaga and Melissa Etheridge to Adam Lambert on the horizon. Cyndi Lauper brings her tour here Wednesday. But while the others stick close to their musical genres, Lauper changes her game as often as her hair color. And this year, she’s got the blues.

Genre leaping can sometimes be the biggest misstep of a musician’s career (Garth was never the same after the Chris Gaines debacle), but Lauper has been doing it for years: Pop to dance to acoustic to standards, all without missing a beat. So she never considered her move into blues was a risk.

“I wanted to do Memphis Blues when I was still at Sony back in 2004,” she says. “As Muddy Waters quoted, ‘If blues gave birth to a child, that child would be rock and roll.’ The blues is the basis for all genres of popular music.”

Which is what Lauper’s back catalog consists of. This move shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Before her landmark debut album, she was working the scene with cover bands, doing a lot of Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones and Faces — bands heavily influenced by blues. With a little extracurricular research, Lauper discovered legends like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Big Maybelle and Ma Rainey.

“I was hooked,” she says.

Now she’s come full circle working with noted musicians on Blues such as veteran giants B.B. King, Allen Toussaint and legend-in-the-making Jonny Lang. For Lauper, this is the album she’s always wanted to do. She’s even confident that her gay fans will follow along even though blues may not be the most popular for LGBT listeners.

“It was a dream to work with each of them; like my own blues museum in one studio,” she says. “My fans seem to love all kinds of music and at different times in my career I have wanted to record certain genres of music that have been meaningful to me, or helped shape me as an artist and they have always come along for the ride. For that, I am grateful.”

That isn’t hard to see. Lauper has been a staunch advocate for LGBT equality and visibility. Her True Colors Tour celebrated queer and queer-friendly music and her recently launched Give a Damn has rallied celebrity support by the likes of Wanda Sykes and Oscar-winner Anna Paquin, who used the campaign to come out as bisexual. She also teamed up with Gaga for a MAC Viva Glam campaign that takes on HIV/AIDS prevention awareness for women.

“I want to continue the work of the True Colors Fund and our Give A Damn campaign to get straight people to stand up for the gay community so that all of us have civil rights and America can be the country it’s supposed to be where we are all treated the same,” she says.

She even expects to bring back the True Colors Tour despite big-ticket festivals and tours not doing so well this summer. But first, she’s giving her own music career some attention.

“It’s about the blues baby! This year I wanted to focus on Memphis Blues and bring it on the road,” she says. “To me, it’s uplifting and music is supposed to heal. The BP oil disaster in the Gulf, wars in the Middle East, the rise of HIV infections in women, global warming — the list is endless, so yeah I’m blue. The great thing is that it still uplifts and no matter how blue you get, there is always hope around the corner.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens