For two decades HEART topped the charts with hits like Crazy on You, Magic Man, and Dreamboat Annie. For sisters, Nancy and Ann Wilson, it was a dream come true. After years of struggling they were among the elite in the record biz.
This dynamic duo was one of the few sister acts to conquer the pop music field at a time when male artists dominated the industry. With their unique mix of folk-rock and a dash of Zeppelin tossed in to keep things interesting, HEART created a sound that catapulted them to stardom.
Nancy and Ann were truly the queens of HEART to their legions of fans. In the 70’s they had seven Top-40 singles in five years. Then in the mid 80’s, HEART had six Top 10 hits in two years. Records flew off shelves by the millions and their concerts constantly sold out. Everywhere Nancy and Ann went adoring fans showered them with gifts and adulation. Once it was known that they loved dogs, one of their fans gave the stars an adorable, four legged, tail wagging pooch that quickly won the hearts of HEART.
“A fan gave me this cute little fluffy Shih-tzu type dog and she became our tour mascot for many years,” recalls Nancy. “Her name was Wombie. I named her that because in our family we used to say ‘put on your wombies before bed then brush your teeth.’ So Wombie was like a kid word for a warm-thing. Wombie was our warm-thing when we traveled. Having a dog on tour helped us to stay grounded, and she traveled with us throughout our 70’s tours.”
In the 80’s, after Wombie’s passing, a new dog went on tour with Nancy. Pony was an English Springer Spaniel, who traveled with Ann’s dog Boppy, a Wheaten Terrier.
Nancy and Ann may have been the headliners but their dogs got the star treatment. The pooches traveled in a private jet and were ushered to and from various 5-star hotels via limo. In fact, Nancy explained that when HEART played New York they always booked a hotel near Central Park so their dogs would have a tree or two nearby.
“Once during a day off in New York we had tickets to see this great play but we didn’t know what to do with our dogs,” said Nancy. “We didn’t have a pet sitter and we didn’t want to leave the dogs on their own at the hotel, so we tipped our limo driver $100 to drive the dogs around while Ann and I went to the play. So there they were, two dogs being chauffeured around Manhattan for three hours in a limousine. They weren’t too spoiled now were they? My friends often tell me that they want to be reincarnated as one of my dogs.”
Nancy went on to say that dogs deserve special treatment. In fact, she went so far as to label them as angels with tails, “Dogs were put on earth to protect, love, and teach us humans,” said Nancy.
When the pop star met movie director Cameron Crowe their relationship evolved around more than just music and movies.
“It was in ’81 when I first met Cameron I learned that he loved dogs as much as I did,” said Nancy. “We were walking through a mall and saw a Springer Spaniel in the pet shop. It was a defining moment in our relationship. To get a dog would mean we were going to take our relationship to a new level. It was like we’d decided to have a child together. Well, we got the dog and Cameron and I eventually got married. So getting the dog turned out to be a good idea and we’ve fallen in love with the breed.”
And the breed has fallen in love with them. Nancy and Cameron have built a dream-come-true lifestyle for themselves and their Springers. Cameron, who began his career as the youngest writer ever to work for Rolling Stone Magazine always wanted two things out of life. He wanted a dog and to make movies. That goal has more than been accomplished. His blockbuster hit, Jerry McGuire starring Tom Cruise showed him the money and set the stage for his next film that is based on his days as a rock ‘n’ roll journalist.
Nancy will be writing the score for Cameron’s latest film as she did for Jerry McGuire. The talented signer/songwriter says that their dogs help to keep them free of the stress that comes with the pressures of creating a major film and hit records.
“Cameron loves to take a break and play with the dogs,” says Nancy. “And each one of our dogs has something unique that we cater to. For example, Charlie our 1-year-old is an obsessive licker. He just can’t stop kissing you. So while Cameron is working on a script or maybe I will be writing some music, there will be Charlie gumming away at our arms. We look at it as the ultimate compliment, but sometimes our guests don’t see it quite the same way.”
By contrast, there is Lucy. Nancy says that she is very regal, independent and extremely intelligent. “Lucy is really the perfect dog,” says Nancy. “She stays out of the way and isn’t a beggar, however she can con you out of a biscuit or two just by the way she looks at you. Until recently Lucy was the middle child. Our oldest dog died over the weekend and now Lucy is at the head of the pecking order.”
HEART’s love for dogs has even influenced their music. Ann penned the words to “Dog and Butterfly” but it was her Sheepdog that inspired the lyrics. Ann watched intently from her bedroom window as her Sheepdog chased a butterfly around the yard. “As Ann watched her dog it struck her as symbolic as to how life can be,” explains Nancy. “When you’re an earthbound creature we’re always jumping and reaching for things we can never really catch, but you try anyway. And that’s the point of the song, we’re always trying to grab at something higher.”
Aside from being a source of inspiration for their music, Nancy, Ann and Cameron believe dogs represent a higher source of love and affection. What the dogs bring to their lives and others translates into many facets, all of which has a positive affect on a dog owner’s life.
“Dogs are put on this earth to love and protect us,” says Nancy. “They are also great teachers. My dogs taught me how to love unconditionally and how to forgive. Dogs don’t harbor resentment. They let things go pretty fast, unlike many of us humans who hold onto things to the point where it can adversely affect our health. I think dogs set a good example for us to follow,” says Nancy.
Although Nancy and Ann didn’t take their four-legged fans with them on their recent summer tour, they managed to have a very positive experience during their 40 city concert series. “I did miss my dogs but this was really the most fun I’ve ever had on the road,” said Nancy. “This time it was just my sister and I doing it solo. We didn’t have a band to back us on this tour so we felt like we were really going out on a limb. We did this tour as an acoustic duo and things worked out extremely well.”
With an establish base of loyal fans of all ages, Ann and Nancy’s summer tour played to sold out houses everywhere. It was like the good ol’ days minus the band. Building on their summer success, Ann and Nancy will once again be in the recording studio cutting another album slated for release next summer.
By Terry L. Wilson