While flying the red-eye home to Los Angeles three years ago, performance artist Nancye Ferguson glimpsed a typically lurid headline in the New York Post: Visiting Kids Terrorize Home. “What a great name for a rock band,” she thought. Soon afterward, Ferguson happened to meet three little girls who dreamed of singing in just such a band. Before long, the pint-size (5’1″) Ferguson had assembled the first version of Visiting Kids—currently three girls and herself, all turned out in white First Communion dresses (“part of my own childhood”) and backed by a rock quartet. This fall the group is set to record its first independent single. “The band fills in a gap in contemporary pop by using kids to project young ideas,” Ferguson says. “They’re spontaneous, honest and direct. It’s refreshing.”
Timothy Leary, who caught a recent set at Club Lingerie, goes further. “The faces are the youngest you’ve ever seen onstage,” he says, “yet they shake up your stereotypes with their profound and witty performance.” It may take the acid-tinged brain of a Leary to discern profundity in Kids tunes such as Who Stole My Barbie Doll? or Goo-Goo Itch. But the Kids’ squeaky-clean look and perky, New Wave sound (members of Devo, Sparks, Fibonaccis and Skanksters comprise the backup band) get a big response at such L.A. clubs as the Palace, the Roxy, the Lhasa and Lingerie. Onstage Ferguson, 30ish, hovers over her three tots like a den mother, giving them their cues. “They’re living out their fantasies,” she says proudly.
In the case of 9-year-old Autumn Kimble, the fantasy was especially poignant. At the age of 6 months she was stricken with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system that paralyzed her from the waist down. “Autumn always loved music,” says her mother, Kathy Kimble, a musician herself. “She would dance, even if she could only shake her head.” Autumn clung to her dream of someday walking and singing in a band, and when she was 4 her disease went into spontaneous remission. “One day while the doctors were talking to my mom I got up out of my wheelchair,” Autumn says. “They looked at me and said, ‘Golly, Autumn was right, she Is going to be able to stand and walk.’ ” Now, says her mother, “her health is absolutely excellent. She very rarely even gets a cold.”
Autumn’s songmates are Alex Mothersbaugh, the 8-year-old niece of Devo lead singer and keyboard player Mark Mothersbaugh, who is also Visiting Kids’ producer, and Scarlett Rouge, 4, daughter of L.A. fashion designer Michele Lamy and actor Richard Newton. Though Ferguson and band members write most of the songs, the girls are starting to work up their own material and routines. “When I first started I didn’t know what I was doing,” admits Autumn. “Now I just feel good because I know I’m going to sing for someone. I still get a little nervous right before we go on, but Nancye squeezes my hand and says, ‘You’re going to do great.’ ”