But drummer dames gots it, too – and with just the right mix of boho chick, bangin’ basher, and sugar ’n’ spice, DIY drummer Meg White has to be any straddler’s sexy kitten on the kit. Her allure, primal skills, and rocker babe sensibilities are why I am madly in love with Meg White.
In music, drummers are often referred to as the “animals”. Drummers are animals (hence the reason Jim Henson named the Muppet drummer of the Muppet band, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem, “Animal”). There’s a primitive, almost instinctive urge being satisfied when a high tom is hit hard, or in riding a high hat, or snapping a snare. This is generally the milieu of cave men, and in lists of “favorite” or “best” or “snottiest” or “gayest” drummers (ya know, those end-of-the year polls that music rags do to death) it’s the men folk who generally top the charts.
But gals are primitive, too. Their brains hide the same reptilian part as men that got encased by more cerebral matter over the eons. I’ve seen it in action – hand any woman a pair of sticks, sit her behind the kit, and let her go to town. See if it doesn’t affect her somehow. It’s intriguing to watch the change (and just a teensy bit arousing).
Female rock drummers are a fairly rare commodity (although there’re more today than ever before). Part of this, unfortunately, is physical. It takes a lot to play LOUD and for long periods; drumming is perhaps the most strenuous of all musical activities, at least live on stage. The reason is simple: IT NEVER STOPS! Even during the time where some poser has his crotch-rocket pointed at the arena ceiling, casually noodling his way through a face-shredder, the drummer is still working hard, keeping time. The poser may catch a breath – the drummer is still banging. The poser may go off stage for a drink – the drummer is still working. The poser is having sex with a skanky groupie – there’s the drummer, right in the backdrop, keeping time. I tells ya, a drummer’s job is never done!
As with anything, the physical strains of drumming are obstacles women overcome with time and practice. Stamina builds, as does the strength in the upper body, arms, wrists, and hands. So, women can rock! And rock has had its share of female drummers, some better known than others (Maureen Tucker of the iconic Velvet Underground springs to mind). But they’d have to go a long way to outplay and out-sexy former White Stripes’ skin-smasher, Meg White.
The Little Drummer Girl
The indie goddess was born Megan Martha White on December 10, 1974. Mom and Dad were Catherine and Walter White. Grosse Pointe Farms, her spawning ground, is a suburb of Detroit, nine miles east of downtown on the shores of Lake St. Clair. Grosse Pointe generally means “money”; it is reasonable to presume the White family wanted for little as Meg grew up.
She did the school thing without much interest in music (she does say in her own bio she began playing drums at a young age, but this seems uncertain). By the early 1990s, she was working as a bartender in another Detroit ’burb, Royal Oak (a few miles north of the Motor City). This bar is where she met an aspiring rocker named John “Jack” Anthony Gillis. She and Gillis became a pair, and on September 21, 1996, they married. Gillis took on her last name (at least, for the stage), thus changing into “Jack White”.
Gillis had been in and out of several bands before meeting Meg. Married, he continued to work on his music. Meg was indirectly involved at best, but within a short time, she displayed enough chutzpah to try her hand at it. She sat in on drums for the first time with husband Jack on a jam session at home.
Meg was not a drummer. She knew she was not a drummer. Jack knew she was not a drummer. Yet, Meg White became a drummer. By keeping it simple and not overplaying, she did what all rock
Jack formed a band with his wife, and to keep it on the simple side, this DIY outfit consisted of two instruments: guitar and drums. Jack handled vocal duties, though Meg would come to sing lead both live and on record occasionally. Her preference for peppermint candy colors led to calling themselves The Red & White Stripes. This was later shortened to The White Stripes.
It is unclear how the publicity machine about their backgrounds developed, but in all likelihood it was Jack White who came up with the idea of promoting the band as a sister-and-brother act and not as wife and husband. Jack commented in 2005 this deception was intended to keep the focus on the music instead of their personal relationship:
“When you see a band that is two pieces, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, you think, ‘Oh, I see . . . ’ When they’re brother and sister, you go, ‘Oh, that's interesting.’ You care more about the music, not the relationship—whether they're trying to save their relationship by being in a band.”
That’s a complete and overflowing crock. Meg, though silent on the issue, probably couldn’t have seen any harm in “coming out” as married (Timbuk3 was a married duo, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore were hitched, and Fleetwood Mac thrived in varying stages of matrimony/acrimony at any given time). Rather, it is more likely Jack wanted to play up the novelty of a brother-sister musical group (other than The Carpenters, not too many mixed-sibling duos spring immediately to mind). If he and Meg were indeed siblings, that would be more rarefied to the press than being in a sexual or marital relationship. It’s about whatever gets the ink, folks. [As proof of the pose, even in the face of irrefutable evidence – as in a hard copy of a marriage license uncovered in 2001 – Jack still sang the party line of being Meg’s brother! The lie can even be heard as late as 2009 in the documentary, Under Great White Northern Lights, about their 2007 Canadian tour.]
The White Stripes were embraced by the indie market readily enough. Theirs was an amalgam of punky/bloozy/esoteric tunes (Jack White has sung Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, in a shrieking falsetto, with sincerity and gusto from the first-person perspective). His guitar work (and make no mistake, Jack White is a savant) is extraordinary, and his fingering, intonations, and sheer guitar weirdness filled out the sound of The White Stripes beyond the norm of lo-fi bands.
As a sharp counterpoint to Jack’s guitar excesses was Meg’s straight-ahead drumming. She takes her post like a woman punching a clock – there’s a job to do and she’s gonna do it. Okay, so maybe in the beginning she was a little rough (still light years beyond Helen Wiggin of The Shaggs), but she learned. And she grew.
And people still complained that her drumming is too simple. Meg White played, sometimes, with one hand only! That may seem like an affectation, but the plain truth is it lends itself to steadiness. [The best thing that ever happened to Def Leppard as a band was when their drummer lost his arm. He had to learn to play in a different way. The result was a much tighter drum sound for the band – he can’t overplay!]
Simplistic, shmimplistic – The White Stripes are multiple Grammy winners and have sold millions of records, not all based on Jack’s whimpering or his skronking guitar work. These two people gelled – it was the right thing at the right time (sort of like how The Clash really took off when Topper Headon – one of the best to ever perch atop a stool – came aboard as their drummer). Jack White has acknowledged Meg’s contribution to the duo’s success, saying her solid, no-frills playing was key to the band’s sound. Meg’s take on her own skills is a bit self-effacing, but probably on point. With respect to claims she is a “simple” drummer, she stated, “That is my strength. A lot of drummers would feel weird about being that simplistic.”
End of the Line
Meg and Jack White divorced on March 24, 2000. Jack White still played the PR party line of the brother and sister gag, even then. It is a testament to these two people’s maturity, however, that they managed to continue to work together as a band despite the breakup of their marriage. The reason for the split is irrelevant – the fact remained they had a band to run, and they forged ahead.
Meg always let Jack be the mouthpiece for the band. She was painfully shy and intensely private. She rarely spoke publicly, content to let Jack blather on her behalf. Thus, The White Stripes’ legend was likely of his construct. However, she was a huge part of that band’s success. When The White Stripes took a hiatus in the early 2000s, Jack White moved on to several other outside projects (at any given time he is in about 73 other groups). In the meantime, Meg was starting to gain her own attention. In 2006 the gorgeous Meg White was tapped as a model for Marc Jacobs’ couture. Some of her glamour shots ended up in Elle magazine.
In April 25, 2007, having never toured Canada, The Stripes announced they would play shows in all ten provinces plus its more sparsely populated territories. The tour kicked off in June 2007. The band started in northwestern Canada and made their way east.
This Canadian tour also featured several “secret” shows (unannounced gigs). They also did a strange “one-note” concert at one outdoor venue. The “one-note” show was literally that: The Stripes arrived on a small stage, Jack picked up his guitar, Meg took her place at her drum kit, and on a count, she and he played one note simultaneously on their instruments, bowed to the audience, and left.
By the time they hit Nova Scotia in mid July, they were celebrating their tenth anniversary as a musical entity, and the Canadian tour had gone well. The tour was filmed and footage compiled into the 2009 documentary, Under Great White Northern Lights.
The Stripes came up for more touring elsewhere, but on September 11 (coincidence or not), 2007, Meg reportedly was having major anxiety attacks. These panic episodes crippled her sufficiently that 18 tour dates had to be canceled. They also had to cancel the balance of a tour that would continue in the UK as Meg could not play. She spent the next several months recovering from whatever ailed her, and she appeared again on-stage in June 2008 along with Jack and one of his side-band projects, The Raconteurs, for an encore in Detroit.
[At the end of the film, Under Great White Northern Lights, Meg and Jack are sitting on a piano bench, and she appears to be having an emotional breakdown. She cries and Jack is seen comforting her when the movie ends.]
Jackson Smith, son of punk priestess Patti Smith and guitar legend Fred “Sonic” Smith (of the seminal Sixties’ group, the MC5) was in a relationship with Meg by then. The two married (in Jack White’s back yard – is he a great ex-husband or what?) in Nashville in May 2009.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. On February 20, 2009, The White Stripes played on the final episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. [I saw this and thought Meg looked tired and rundown. She also looked a bit bloated – it didn’t make me love her any less, but it was a bit worrisome. Rumors sprang forth soon enough that her weight gain might have been due to her maybe being pregnant (unknown, and irrelevant, but it would explain her drained demeanor).]
That TV performance was the last time The Stripes played under that name. On February 2, 2011, on their official Web-site, they announced they were folding their tents. After six studio LPs, multiple awards,
Meg’s Massive . . . uhhh . . . Talents!
Meg White is a tasty morsel. She has a slanted little smile that is adorable. She is girly cute. She is also womanly beautiful – I love those babes that can be anything. She is 5’5” tall, and stacks out at a very delectable 36-31-34. She is also topped off by a mighty set of DDs.
Meg was the scandalized subject of a homemade sex tape allegedly featuring her. The provenance of the tape is unclear. The year it was made is unknown (if it was filmed before, or during, the time the real Meg White was married to Jack).
In the search for truth, however, I did have to spend many hours thoroughly examining the naked female in stills from this film. [Research is a dirty job – see what I have to go through to please you people?] In the end, I don’t think the woman in the tape is Meg White. Uh, yeah, and a few clicks on the keyboard led to the information that neither does the rest of the world – turns
All that junk aside, Meg White is an extremely engaging woman to gaze upon. Over the years her look has gone from her early rockabilly-babe-with-a-Bettie-Page-’do, to DIY darling, to fashion model sophistication. This is a visually versatile, yet reticent celebrity. Her retiring
I do believe the delectable and musically talented Meg White is not gone. I think she’ll still be around, doing some fringe things. She’s worked on soundtracks; she and Jack were characters (themselves) on an episode of The Simpsons. She likes photography. Her only quirky behavior is probably her interest in taxidermy. That’s a lot of wallop from a girl drummer – its why I am madly in love with Meg White.
Meg White Sings!
(and her audience adores her!)
see it happen in Canada
Amazon Price: $24.98 $12.97 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 15, 2016)