Who would ever guess that there was a connection between iconic child star Shirley Temple Black, who died this past February 10 at age 85, and the godfathers of grunge, one-time Pacific Northwest residents the Melvins?
Yet odd as it may seem, Melvins lead singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne dated Black’s youngest daughter, Lori, for four years, during which time, under the name “Lori Lorax,” she also played bass with the group.
Osborne first met Black when the Melvins recorded their first album, “Gluey Porch Treatments,” in the San Francisco Bay Area in late 1986; Black was then dating the album’s producer, Mark Deutrom (who would later join the Melvins himself).
In 1988, the Melvins relocated from the Grays Harbor area to San Francisco, after which Osborne and Black became a couple and she joined the band. But as Osborne explained in Mark Yarm’s grunge oral history, “Everybody Loves Our Town,” he had no idea of her parentage for some time. “Months and months later, she said, ‘My mom is somebody famous,’” he recalled. “It was crazy. I couldn’t believe that her mom was Shirley Temple.”
After meeting Black’s mother, Osborne was surprised to be given a personal demonstration of her talents. On one occasion, she played Osborne a recording of herself playing drums as a child; he rated her skills as highly as those of Buddy Rich.
And in a surreal moment one wishes had been captured on film, the “Little Miss Broadway” star then demonstrated her tap-dancing skills, explaining, “tap dancing is really just drumming.”
Melvins drummer Dale Crover credited the younger Black with being “a really solid bass player. She had really good meter … which helped me become a more solid player.” Black appeared on three of the Melvins’ albums, including their major label debut, 1992’s “Houdini,” which also featured Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who produced six of the album’s tracks as well as playing guitar and percussion.
It’s not known if mother and daughter ever connected at a Melvins gig. Who knows what the woman who performed such chipper numbers as “The Good Ship Lollipop” and “Animal Crackers in My Soup” would’ve thought of such droning Melvins tunes as “Ligature” and “If I Had An Exorcism”?