If it were possible to do a gene scan for talent, the one that produces good country and western musicians would probably be colored blue, fit like a second skin, and be worn through at the knees.
And, judging from her demo tape, someone like Marge Calhoun of Alexandria, Va., probably has an entire wardrobe hidden in her chromosomes, thanks to her father, who raised her on country music, and an ancestor whoonce rode for the Pony Express.
Based on that, it was probably inevitable that she would one day have her own band, Marge Calhoun and the New Heartaches. Over the last five years, her band has become popular in the Washington area.
But now, the band has a chance to find a new audience tomorrow night at 7 with its county debut at Quiet Waters Park near Annapolis. It's the next-to-last presentation of the 1991 Starlight Summer Concert Series.
The band has performed all over the region at county fairs and outdoor concerts, sharing the stage with some of the top names in country music, including Buck Owens, Roger Miller, Roy Clark and VernGosdin.
"I just love it in Annapolis, it's one of my favorite places to go and spend a Sunday afternoon," she said. "It's so beautifulhere, working by the bay in an outdoor concert. And the people are always really nice."
The 5-year-old band takes its name from a Ricky Skagg song, "New Heartache." Its current lineup, which has been together for the past two months, includes Barry Sless as musical director, lead guitar and steel guitar player; Mike McBride on bass and vocals; Dave Jacobson on lead guitar and vocals; drummer Charlie Crane;and Calhoun on acoustic guitar.
The band performs what Calhoun calls "new traditional" country music. She defines this as "pretty much classic country with a rockabilly twist. It's hillbilly rock -- or newcountry."
Her professional career started in 1985, as half of a duo known as the Virginia Reel. From there, she moved fairly quickly to an all-female country band called Dazzle.
This association lasted about three months before she hooked up with the New Heartaches, "and then I just got going with the band. Music is such a transitory thing, but this group has been just wonderful."
Originally from Boston, Mass., Calhoun has her roots in country.
"My ancestors are from Texas," she said. "I've got a great-grandfather who was a cowboy. He drove cattle and ran mail for the U.S. government -- he rode for the Pony Express, too."
New England entered the picture, Calhoun said, due to an apparent misunderstanding concerning the way her grandfather was dealing a card game in California.
"So he fled to the East, where he learned to read and write in New York, and eventually became a lawyer in Boston, where he met my grandmother," Calhoun said.
Calhoun was an Army brat who lived all over the world. She grew up on a steady diet of her father's country and western music collection. "He's very proud of my being a country singer," Calhoun added.
She started writing country and western songs at the age of 15.
"Itpretty much happened naturally. When I put the songs to music, they just evolved that way, especially after I started to learn about my family tree. I guess you could say I inherited this thing, in a way."