Just another day for diapering diva Allison King

by Brian Clarey

Allison King, the Greensboro-based diva blessed with blistering pipes and unctuous groove, sits down on her couch in the living room of the white farmhouse in the southeast quadrant of town, a space she shares with her husband and bandmate Bill Jordan and their two daughters, Zoë, 2, and Zadyn, who has yet to reach her first birthday. Fingerpaintings and crayon sketches hang on the walls of the living room and the woodstove is cordoned off by child gates. A Pooh Bear costume hangs from a doorframe and The Lion King runs on the television screen, capturing Zoë’s attention for the moment.

Allison cracks a Diet Pepsi and talks about her career in music.

‘“I had a band before I had a job,’” she says, speaking of Dr. Brown’s Code Blue Review, the band she joined in 1991. ‘“We used to…’“

‘“Mommy, I hurt my knee on your shoe.’”

Allison kisses it better and then wrinkles her nose.

‘“Can we take a diaper break?’” she asks.

And then she’s got Zoë under her arm, moving through a curtain of cellophane flowers to the little girl’s room where she expertly makes the change faster than a seasoned pit crew can swap a tire.

‘“If it stays nice,’” she says to her daughter, ‘“I might take you and your sister to the zoo!’” And she lifts the giggling child from the changing table and swings her in a half turn before setting her back on the floor.

Back on the couch now, with Zoë on her lap, she picks up the conversational thread.

‘“Oh God, I’ve been playing around here for ages. We used to …’”

‘“Close your eyes Mommy.’”

‘“Not now Zoë. We used to…’”

‘“Close your eyes.’”

‘“Zoë, Mommy’s talking. Do you want to play with some dough?’”

Of course she does.

Allison King, winner of the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society’s talent competition in the summer of 2000, singer and driving force behind the band that bears her name, music journalist who has covered the Triad scene for 11 years and still pens a column for Go Triad every month, fetches the cans of Play-Doh from a high shelf along with a rubber mat and sets them on the floor.

‘“She’s allowed to play with it as long as she keeps it on the mat,’” she says.

Zoë gooshes purple muck between her fingers with glee and starts to sing ‘“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’” Allison smiles.

At a festival this weekend, Allison says, Zoë took the stage with her mommy and some other female vocalists and asked if they could sing that song. The women talked her into doing ‘“On Top of Spaghetti’” instead. Zoë’s no stranger to the stage ‘— Allison and Bill bring her up every chance they get.

‘“I don’t have to pay her as a backup singer until she’s fourteen,’” Allison laughs. ‘“When I ‘— oh no no no, you’re ruining it,’” and she grabs the purple gob from her daughter’s hands.

‘“It’s a baby candle,’” the little girl says sweetly.

‘“Yes it is.’” She turns to the reporter. ‘“Bill and I used to go to the movies all the time ‘— I lived in LA; I’m just into that. Now we get to gig together.’” She pauses. ‘“At least I know where he is at night.’”

From her seat on the floor Zoë makes faces at the reporter while her mommy talks. She takes a tiny wad of the purple Play-Doh and puts it in her mouth.

The mother’s instinct kicks in.

‘“Zoë, no. What did you do with it?’”

‘“It’s in my tummy.’”

‘“Oh, Zoë. It’s called ‘Play-Doh’ not ‘Eat-Doh.””

She smiles.

‘“And it’s not as good as a Fruit Roll-Up. You want one?’”

Of course she does.

And in moments Zoë is curled on her lap, wiggling gently. Allison still hasn’t said a word about her music.

‘“This is what I am,’” she says, gesturing to the roomful of toys, to the little girl on her lap and the cartoon on television. ‘“The music ‘— that is what I am, too. It’s intermingled in everything we do. I can’t separate it. I’m either gigging or with my kids or writing my column.’” She sighs. ‘“I’m exhausted all the time.’”

And then her ears pick up the soft cries of Zadyn, rising from her afternoon nap in the next room.

‘“Uh oh. I gotta go get her.’”

And the reporter leaves Allison King to motherhood.

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