Gail Petersen was born in the wild Eastern Wilderness City of New York, the daughter of a Southern sharecropper and the Editor of a fashion journal for professional wrestlers. From an early age, Gail knew she wanted to “be somebody” in the arts. At five years of age, she made up lyrics for her own versions of popular songs; at eight, she wrote her own ten-page suspense novel, The Mysterious Ghost. Then, for her eleventh birthday she begged her parents for a cheap guitar. Like Blind Lemon Jefferson, she learned to play it by ear, and became linked forever with music. Before long, she was composing songs full of minor chord changes and allusions to betrayal and lost love (even though she had yet to be allowed to go to on her first date).
Nevertheless, Gail continued writing songs and at age thirteen she was demoed by a major record label at their request. This was quite unusual for any young girl let alone a Catholic schoolgirl, and she was promptly told to spend more time on her studies and less on music. She did what she was told... for a little while... and then... all hell really broke loose. She graduated... to an all girls Catholic high school.
In high school, Gail began to break away from the “God’s-gonna-get-you/nasty-nun-dominated world of her past. She discovered the fun aspects of life - dating boys and playing music with her girlfriends. On the serious side, she wrote poetry and short stories that examined love, loneliness and the whys and wherefores of religion, and saved up her allowance to buy her first electric guitar (a used Telecaster) and her first amplifier.
Toward the end of high school, Gail and three of her friends - Joanne, Roxy and Marilyn decided to form a band. At first, they called themselves DOUBLE CROSS, and they wore conventional band-type clothing, playing cover tunes for audiences who believed firmly that “chicks can’t really play” and “beer is life.” But performing someone else’s music was not Gail’s idea of a good time. She realized she felt more at home on stage singing her own songs. So the band took a break from playing out and began to rehearse day and night in the living room of Marilyn’s parents. (Luckily the neighbors never complained, in fact, some of them became ardent fans - including a “young boy” named Roman who became the subject of the song by that same name.)
The four friends re-emerged on the music scene as The Catholic Girls. No more old band clothes. They had a seamstress make uniforms similar in style to the one Gail wore in grammar school, but cooler, hipper, and a helluva a lot shorter. Gail donned a brand new pair of patent leather Mary Janes and the other three girls wore saddle shoes. Rosary beads, religious medals, and other Catholic paraphernalia became part of the band’s fashion statement. Suddenly, what had been a curse to Gail in her younger years, now became extreme fashion, a way of expressing creativity and a sense of humor.
Gail always had been enamored of good, catchy tunes and she wrote many of the songs for the group with a pop sensibility in mind - memorable verse and chorus, and a good beat to dance to. Some compositions veered into a minor key but they still had a hook and a beat. But it was in the lyrics, that Gail let her intellectual side show through. While she played with subject matters like a lover’s betrayal, a guy who couldn’t express his feelings and the dangers of Catholic private school (Someone New, Boys Can Cry And Private School), she also wrote about more serious and esoteric things (not in character for girl rock bands of the eighties). Some of these themes included: a favorite, childhood movie theater that burnt down in Park Theatre, rising from the dead in Lazarus (a song not included on the album), abusive boyfriends, C’est Impossible, and the eleven-minute opus, God made You, which contained references to the Bible and the famous, catechism refrain: with a twist - Who made you? God made you. Why did God make you? God made you for me.
During this time, Gail was known for her emotional but playful stage show. She would lie down on the stage floor, fall to her knees, raise her hands in supplication to heaven, and never be able to keep a straight face while singing in the same microphone as Roxy. One night at THE RITZ, a club in New York City, she tore up a black and white school composition book during the finale of the show. (The song was I Wanna’ Be Somebody - also not on the album.). Another night, at CBGBs, an ardent fan, believing the song Young Boys was about him, grabbed onto Gail’s white knee sock and wouldn’t let go. It was only when Joanne interfered and knocked the young lad on the head with the top of her bass guitar, that he finally gave up and the bouncers carried him away.
Another riveting aspect of their show was Gail’s distinctive voice. She combined a bluesy-edged alto with a ringing vibrato that was unmistakable. At the time, it was pretty unconventional - but now - just look at who’s using the same technique. There’s a long list.
The band became a cult favorite and before long... MCA offered the girls a record deal.
For information on the MCA years - see the CATHOLIC GIRLS BIO.
When the band disbanded - Gail traveled extensively in the Far East and Europe, at one point going as far away as Siberia, always writing and composing. She resurfaced in Los Angeles in the late eighties as the front person for an all-male band. Once again, there was a great deal of record company interest, but the timing wasn’t right.
Then, one dark and stormy night, she wrote Vampire, a strikingly passionate piece about a woman’s personal struggle with the darker side. This song soon became the inspiration for Gail’s first novel, The Making of A Monster, which was published by Doubleday/Dell in 1993.
In The Making of A Monster, Gail dealt with themes similar in many ways to the music of The Catholic Girls. Once again, longing, betrayal, the opposite sex, resurrection and religion were featured.
Kate, the main character of the book, is an ordinary girl with an ordinary life... until she suffers a single personal catastrophe. Death. Or un-death. She meets and becomes obsessed with a charismatic stranger who changes the world for her in a single night. Kate becomes a vampire, and unlike most vampires, she retains her conscience, her romantic streak, her faith, and her personal convictions.
Throughout the novel, Gail explored the world she knows best: the music underground, the record business, the Catholic faith, and something she was now an expert in, monsters.
The song Vampire is featured as a bonus track on the 1999 re-release of The Catholic Girls original album.
Chapter Six and Beyond... Sometimes things do come full circle.
Gail has completed her third book - a thriller about murder, revenge and deception. And of course, a Catholic schoolgirl is involved with the subject matter here, dark and steamy with the focus on serious mystery and tension. She's also working on a sequel to Monster.
And The Catholic Girls are back and going strong! "Make Me Believe" was released by Skymarshall Productions in Feburary 2002 and the band is touring in support of the the CD - see the Live Dates section for the latest updates. Plans are also in the works for another release sometime in 2003 with all new songs including "Summer Vacation" which the band has begun performing live. Gail has a catalog of over 150 songs so... that should keep The Catholic Girls busy for the next twenty years!
Only God Knows What Will Happen in Chapter Seven