In 2007, middle-schooler John-David “JD” Bass sat riveted in front of the television in suburban Madison, Miss., watching a 30-year-old replay of KISS’ 1977 “Love Gun” tour concert blaring on VH1. Gene Simmons, showcasing his signature black-and-white “demon” paint look, belted out lyrics while “Catman” Peter Criss pounded the drums behind him.
“Starchild” Paul Stanley—with the iconic five-pointed black star covering his right eye and temple—and Spaceman Ace Frehley slashed their guitars, adding to the beautifully organized chaos unfolding before him. Transfixed, Bass sat motionless throughout the entire show, the heavy rock beats thundering through his skull, leaving permanent marks.
“I had always wanted to be in a rock band,” Bass says. “Now I was sure. I kept saying to myself, ‘I’ve got to do that,’ and that was it.”
That moment planted the seed that sprouted into his own rock band, Lady Gun, and fixed Bass’ future in the local-music industry. “That was definitely the beginning,” Bass says. “I’ve always been a huge shock-rock fan. I love ’80s hair metal–—the image and the attitude of it. Like (Mötley Crüe’s) Tommy Lee, I try to be a ‘front man’ on drums, playing super loud and spinning and throwing my (drum) sticks.”
Andy Dorian followed a similar path, remembering hard rock and road trips with his dad in the early 2000s. “I was about 6, wearing my Old Navy shirt and sitting in the backseat when Dad put AC/DC’s ‘High Voltage’ album in the CD player,” he remembers. “The first song on that one is ‘Long Way to the Top,’ and it took over my whole body. I thought to myself, ‘Holy sh*t, that’s awesome!’ The raw power of the song—my dad and I were banging our heads and singing at the top of our lungs the whole way to Memphis.”
Singer and guitarist Warren Beebe’s influences had less “edge” but just as much impact. “One of the earliest memories I have is us driving down to the beach in Florida and listening to the Beatles’ ‘Rubber Soul’ album,” he says. “The production value really impressed me.”
“I learned that George Martin, a producer at Apple/EMI, was called the ‘fifth Beatle,’” Beebe adds. “He and some of the studio techs created technology to create and record those far-out sounds. Even as a kid, I recognized it was different and loved his style.” Thanks to those early formative memories of George Martin and the help of teacher Ronnie Russell, Beebe started learning how to mix and record music as a sophomore in high school.
‘Did They Really Just Say That?’
The three formed Lady Gun in 2020, the passion project of three creative musicians, fostered in the crucible of the pandemic. John-David “JD” Bass drives the beat forward on drums for bassist Andy Dorian and guitarist-lead vocalist Warren Beebe.
With three singles out and a self-titled album on the way, Lady Gun rocks to its own beat.
“Like our name, our music is about what inspires us,” Beebe says. “Ladies!”
As can often be the case in the rock ’n’ roll genre, the lyrical innuendo borders on the racy, riding the edge of a guitar solo paired with a heavy beat and fat chords.
“Some bands are afraid to sing about what we sing about,” Bass says. “But if you’re going to sing about good-looking women, you’ve got to put some detail in there.”
When crafting lyrics, the band agrees that they “write from experience” and “cover a lot of the archetypes in rock,” Dorian says. “Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.”
“The best part is when (the audience) is a little unsure,” Bass says. “‘Did they really just say that?’ Yes, we did. Innuendo is the best part.”
Although Lady Gun is definitely a rock band, it explores other genres when composing music, too. “‘Steady Rains’ is a softer song about going through life, and we have a blues-inspired song, ‘Phatty Blues’ about a waitress at Proud Larry’s in Oxford,” Bass says. “We wrote the lyrics first on that. I think JD fell in love with that waitress that day.”
“We like women, we like guns, we like to party, and we try to live like that as much as possible,” they say, laughing and emphasizing that despite their hard-charging rock personas, the three are dedicated, responsible young men. Two have steady girlfriends, and all three have full-time jobs, regulating group rehearsals to nights and weekends.
All three contribute to the songwriting. “Usually, Andy (Dorian) comes up with a really great song idea,” Beebe says. “He’s great at chords and spearheading the songs.”
“I had a great riff in mind and the chorus,” Dorian says. “My girlfriend and I were watching movies, and she fell asleep. I got up and went quietly into the next room, where I wrote ‘Good Love Girl’ in just a few hours.”
Oh, there is a girl
Who rocks my world
She rocks my whole world
Don’t need rubies and pearls
To make her twirl
Cause she’s my good love girl.
Their newest release “Lemon Pie”—a tribute to their musical forefathers—is a classic riff-driven rock tune that harkens back to the sounds of the ’70s and is full of lyrical innuendo indicative of the era:
Hey pretty baby
Lemme stop on by,
Have a little taste of your lemon pie
They say it’s stone sour
But to me it’s sweet
And you know for a fact
That you’re pulling me.
“It’s just a fun rock song with a great beat,” says drummer JD Bass, whose musical influences—KISS, Mötley Crüe, Rob Zombie, Scorpions—can be clearly heard in the group’s sound. “We wanted a fun song that sounded like the music we grew up with.”
Forming the Band, Finding a Name
Madison’s own JD Bass is part of a musical family that surrounded him with sound and encouraged musicianship from a young age. “My mother was in the Mississippi Opera (now called Opera Mississippi) and a choir director at St. Luke’s,” Bass, who played percussion through middle and high school, says. “I got my first drum set in elementary school, and I stayed in touch with that.”
Bass met Andy Dorian in high school at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison. Although born in Atlanta, Dorian’s parents moved to Mississippi when he was an infant, and Dorian likewise began his musical career by playing in the school band. Then Dorian discovered the bass and loved its ability to inject background texture that adds richness. “I was always drawn to the bass,” he says. “Playing it came naturally to me, single notes, a rhythm that’s in tune with the drums, low tones that help drive the beat.”
The two musicians’ budding collaboration needed a lead singer, and they found the ideal candidate in Warren Beebe, another Mississippi transplant. Alexandria, La., born Beebe always loved music and listened to everything. “I had lots of musical influences, but no immediate relatives to look to,” Beebe says.
Despite the fact that all three attended the same high school, their paths did not cross until a 2020 crawfish boil in downtown Jackson, and the fledgling band officially started over spicy boiled mudbugs, corn and new potatoes.
Regular rock ’n’ roll jam sessions that took inspiration from the music of their parents’ generation—Buffalo Springfield; the Beatles; Led Zeppelin; Bob Dylan; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; B.B. King; Ricky Skaggs; and even Joni Mitchell—honed their unique style, and their eclectic playlist prepared them for live performances.
The hardest part was choosing a moniker. They kicked around dozens of names, but none stuck. “Every time we practiced, somebody threw out another idea,” Dorian says. “Finally, I asked, ‘How about Lady Gun?’ and we accepted it kind of by default. But it sounds like a rock band and matches our aesthetic.”
At concerts, fans responded enthusiastically to the name, stomping and cheering. “People would come up to me after and say they like ‘Lady Gun,’ but (ask), ‘What does it mean?’” Dorian says. “The good thing is, it can mean whatever you want it to mean.”
Starting Small & Breakthrough to the Studio
“We began small, with little shows at The Pub in (Ridgeland),” Beebe says. “Natalie Long and Patrick Harkins from Fondren Guitars really helped us get our start.” They were soon selling out smaller shows in The Pub and at Fondren Guitars, and they started playing at new venues like Martin’s Downtown and places as far away as Starkville, Miss.
At the band’s Christmas 2021 show at The Pub, their big break arrived in the form of an invitation from Lake Wilkinson to record at Farmland Studios in Nashville. “We’ve written dozens of original songs, and we’ve covered some of the greats, and this is our opportunity to get it all on tape,” Beebe says.
Lady Gun recorded at Farmland Studios over two days, Bass says. The studio is inside an older house in Berry Hill, a suburb of Nashville. Session musicians lived on the second floor. “It was like being at home,” Bass recalls.
“At one point, we could hear one guy practicing the upright bass for his own gigs,” Beebe says. “We had to stop our recording sessions at 9 p.m. so the guys upstairs could go to bed,” he adds with a laugh.
Lady Gun’s self-titled, eight-track album filled with original content is set to release in July 2022. Songs include “Lemon Pie,” “Slide Away,” “Gunslingin’ Wesley,” “Steady Rains,” “Phatty Blues,” “Hell To Be You,” “Midnight Rolling” and “Beg For More.”
The selection encompasses crowd favorites at live shows, and these eight songs are often in the band’s sets, along with other popular songs of theirs like “Ourselves,” “Do or Die Part 1 and Part 2,” “Good Love Girl” and “Teaser.”
Rock-music artists from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s like Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Thin Lizzie, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and others inspired these original songs in one form or another, the bandmates explain. Lady Gun mixes those influences with eclectic riffs and musical homages to other greats like Django Reinhardt and even Oxford, Miss., band The Pearl Divide.
“All of us are huge fans of Cream,” Beebe finishes. “We cover them a lot, and love their rock ’n’ roll sound. And just like them, we’re a three-piece band with a red-headed drummer,” he muses.
Lady Gun’s next live performance will be at Martin’s Downtown (214 State St., Jackson) on Friday, June 24, at 10 p.m. Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is $10.
“We’ll play non-stop rock ’n’ roll for two-and-a-half hours,” Dorian says. “Other bands like to take breaks. … We don’t. We’re all about the rockin’!”
The group will shortly afterward travel back to Nashville to finish their debut album, which they hope to also press on vinyl.
For more information on Lady Gun and to keep up with their latest goings-on, visit ladygun.bandcamp.com or find the band on Facebook or Instagram. Listen to Lady Gun on Spotify and other music-streaming services.