The new counterculture lives in the middle.

Cidny Bullens is TransElectric and Comfortable

Cidny Bullins relaxes at Room & Board Studio, Berry Hill, Nashville TN. Photo by Travis Commeau

“I was going to be Mick Jagger. I looked like him. I moved like him. I could sing like him.  ’Are you Mick Jagger?’ girls gushed when I sauntered past them at age fifteen in the mid-sixties. ‘His younger brother!’ I’d shout back in a fake English accent.”
—Cidny Bullens from his autobiography TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star

It could have been scripted. There sits Cidny Bullens in the living room of his cozy East Nashville bungalow on a beautiful afternoon, a smiling, 73-year-old grandfather of four wearing Nikes, lived-in jeans, a big smile, a stubbled chin, and a t-shirt of the Route 66 road sign.

In an arc on the shirt above the sign is a sunrise of letters: “Find your freedom.” If David Chase were filming this, it’s exactly the shirt he would have Cid wear.

He’s a man riding high on the tremendous critical success of his recent album, Little Pieces, released in October of 2023, and his new memoir, TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star (Chicago Review Press).

“I’m very happy with it,” Cidny says of the book. “It says what I wanted it to say.” A deeply affecting memoir, TransElectric isa triumphant travelogue of a man born into a woman’s body on a search for identity and a sense of belonging. “It’s a story of a rock and roller, a mother, and a transgender man all at the same time.”  he says. “Parallel lives that all just happen to be mine.” 

Cidny Bullens has only been Cidny since 2012. Before that, he was CINDY Bullens, a Cosmic Rock Star (his wife’s nickname for him), and yes, Cindy was a rock star at one point in her life. But as a child, she was a suburban Massachusetts WASP girl born in the rigid ’50s who hated wearing dresses and eschewed her sister’s Barbie dolls in favor of her brother’s toys. She grew up to be a Les Paul-wielding rock and roll tomboy who got the major label pushback during the Carter Administration.

She sang backup for Elton John and Rod Stewart, guested on the Rolling Thunder Revue, dazzled a string of business execs with her chops and attitude, and sang three songs on the Grease soundtrack. (One might bear in mind when reading this that when talking about Cindy, the pronouns are “she” and “her,” and when talking about Cidny, the pronouns are “he” and “him.” If you find it confusing, try living it.)

“I went back and started reading my journals,” says Bullens. “I have boxes and boxes. 50 years of journals. They go back to 1970 or ’71.”

“Reading them was a challenge,” he admits, “It put me into a deep depression. But the blessing was that I was able to really get into the feelings of moments in my life — get into the true visceral depth of what was happening at the time. Whether it was fun, whether it was my career, whether it was my family …”

In 1971, with a suitcase, $100, and a guitar, Cindy moved to LA. She was fearless, with talent to burn, a cannon of a voice, and a serious streak of rock and roll attitude.

Her first big break in LA came from her moxie. She crashed a taping of a live album by Dr. John that was recorded for an invited audience at Cherokee Studios. Cindy wasn’t invited, but she got past the doorman with the time-honored tactic of walking in like you own the place. She didn’t stop there. At the end of the show was an all-star jam session with Dr. John, who was joined by Elton John, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, and a slew of others. 

With the balls of a Brahman bull, she bum-rushed the stage, and when the lead singer’s microphone went unoccupied for a moment, she grabbed it and sang her heart out. Not only did she not get thrown out, she was offered a record deal. That deal didn’t pan out, but an offer from Elton to be a backup singer did. And so began her years as a mover and shaker amid the rarefied atmosphere of rock stars and record company moguls.

She sang backup on several tours with Elton John and Rod Stewart, sang on sessions, hung with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Freddie Mercury to Billie Jean King, and got one of several feathers in her cap when she sang three songs on the Grease movie soundtrack.

Have a listen to Cid Bullens’ 2023 release, Little Pieces

Then she got the serious big break: a solo album. Desire Wire (1979)was a tremendous rock and roll album on which she sang like a woman (or man) possessed while she beat the shit out of a Les Paul guitar. But no single got any traction, and she went through the heartbreaking ordeal of watching her record tank and the label deal fade into the mist.

Little Pieces by Cidny Bullens is available in Limited Edition Opaque Red Vinyl via Kill Rock Stars

She married a gay man, Dan Crewe (brother of songwriter/producer Bob Crewe, one of Cindy’s first champions in LA) and, despite the betting odds, bore two children, became a jeans-clad short-haired housewife in Connecticut with a minivan and the whole nine yards, and ruefully strummed her old guitar in stolen moments.

For all her frustrations and bouts of depression, though — endemic to her biological mismatch — it was not an unremittingly unhappy life. “I enjoyed every tender moment of breastfeeding my two babies,” he says. She and Dan got along well. And Cindy adored her two daughters, Reid and Jessie, and genuinely loved being a mother.

In 1996, at the age of 11, Jessie died of cancer, and Cindy and Dan both fell apart and grew apart. The wilderness years began. But as the millennium crossed over, she found her muse in a few different ways. The songs, informed by grief, began to come, and she recorded and released the seminal album Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth. She was back.

In the aughts, being “back” in the music business was different from 1971, when people bought records. But then — as one does — she discovered Nashville and visited, almost immediately falling into a crowd of great songwriters like Radney Foster, Bill Lloyd, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Matraca Berg, and many others. She formed a group called The Refugees with Wendy Waldman and Deborah Holland, which would go on to release three acclaimed albums.

In 2011, she decided to catch up with an old AA sponsee she hadn’t talked to in three years. Annie was her name. Cindy dialed Annie’s number, and the voicemail greeting said, “This is Austin. Leave a message.”

Annie had transitioned, and this triggered something in Cindy. She fell to her knees crying and couldn’t stop. It was a whack in the face of what her life could be if she took the leap of faith and “became” a man, even though it would just be “becoming” what she already was.

There was a year of testosterone injections, a top surgery, some facial hair coming in, a deepening singing voice, some friends and relatives who didn’t get it, and others who did, including her daughter Reid, Dan … and Elton (!) who phoned and offered his support. (Elton wrote the introduction to the book.) And by 2012, at 61 years of age. Cidny Bullens was his name, and “he” was his pronoun.

My editor asked for a 1250-word article, not a 1399 one. A lot has been glossed over — a string of successful solo albums, pivotal occurrences, enough to fill a book. Fortunately, though, there already is a book. 

It’s called TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star. Buy it, read it, be moved by it, find yourself cheering him along, and when you see a happy 73-year-old man walking down the street who looks just like the picture on the back book flap, you might even want to shake his hand and say, “I loved your book, man.” 

TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star
By Cidny Bullens
Chicago Review Press

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