Reflecting on her past and reflected in her daughter Heidi’s voice, Kathy Bauer (left) sings and writes because that is what she is destined to do. Photo by Phil Houseal
Kathy Bauer: Destined to sing
by Phil Houseal
She’s been near the top. She’s been below bottom.
Now Kathy Bauer is right where she needs to be.
The Fredericksburg singer/songwriter sings traditional country music, both as a solo act and fronting the Kathy Bauer Band. You can catch her with her band at The 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera, Floores in Helotes, and Luckenbach. She plays solo gigs at Hondo’s, Silver Creek, West End Pizza, and Lincoln Street.
But about 30 years ago she was recording in Nashville and charting records.
Bauer enjoyed heady success in the 1980s. She wrangled a job singing in the house band at the legendary Gilley’s in Pasadena during its heydays. She met top country artists, and was even befriended by Sylvia, who encouraged Bauer to move to Nashville. In the Capitol of Country Music, Bauer landed a job working for Loretta Lynn’s publishing company, sang demos for Harlan Howard, and released a song on an independent label that cracked the Top 100 chart.
Just when she was poised to achieve more success, tragedy struck. She was raped in her home.
“It took my spirit,” she said. “I felt like I was a shell. Everything I thought was real, wasn’t.”
The real tragedy, she now realizes, is what followed. Bauer could not find the power to go back and pursue her musical goals.
“I couldn’t be self-promoting; I did not want to give of myself. I had another song to be released, but that killed it for me.”
But Bauer discovered another part of herself that needed nurturing. She turned her energy to her church, her kids, and her husband.
“I focused on more important things, and started singing in church.”
Maybe Bauer’s ancestry preordained her wild journey. While she grew up around Houston, Bauer’s roots are in the Hill Country. Her great grandparents, who lived in Fredericksburg, were killed by lightning while coming in from the fields. Their children were disbursed, and Bauer’s grandmother was taken in by a family in Sisterdale. She worked at the dance hall, where she met the man who became Kathy Bauer’s grandfather.
Bauer returned to Fredericksburg in 1998. Three of her four children graduated from Fredericksburg High School, including Heidi, who now follows in her mom’s bootsteps, playing and singing, often with her mother.
“I see myself in Heidi,” she said. “Only when I was coming up, I didn’t have a mom that sang. I had to pave my own way.”
Bauer nurtured music in all of her children.
“We used to say if our kids didn’t sing we would have had to give them up for adoption,” she laughed.
When her kids got older, she realized it was time to sing again.
“I now sing because I love it. I sing because it is therapy for me. I don’t know what I’d be without it.”
Bauer loves singing both solo and with her band. She also writes.... usually from her life. “If it isn’t happening, I can’t write,” she said. “I sing songs I relate to. I have to have felt it and lived it to enjoy singing it.”
From her current perch in life, she has found perspective on her past.
“I didn’t know I was in a good place,” she said of those early days. “I was young and naive, and didn’t realize I was in good hands. Fear set in and kind of took over. Looking back, I would have stuck it out.” She paused. “But then I wouldn’t have had my family and the life I have.”
She has no regrets.
“I don’t know if I’d be good at being rich and famous,” she said, smiling. “Well, maybe rich, but fame is not as important.”
She has reached the point where her art is the point, not the means to an end.
“I perform for my own enjoyment. As soon as I get on stage and start singing, I know that’s what I need to do.”
Make no mistake. Her fires have forged a core of steel.
“I always say I’m destined for greatness,” she said, “whether in a big way or just with family and friends. I feel blessed. I’m 55 and I’m singing. People are liking it; they don’t mind looking at me.” She laughed. “That’s not a bad thing!”
But her true mission extends beyond the footlights.
“Singing is like a direct connection to God. It’s probably as close as I ever feel. I sing because it is a gift and I’m giving it back. That’s why I do it.”