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Ava Cherry Gives an Insider’s Look at the Making of David Bowie’s Young Americans

At the Stevie Wonder party, which was at Genesis, the club I used to work. Stevie asked me where we should give a party after he did Carnegie Hall. David was also doing Radio City that week for his American tour. My manager had given me Ziggy Stardust, the record. He thought David was going to be huge, and I didn’t have any idea who David was. I listened to it, and I really liked it. At this party about a month later, my manager came up to me and said, “Oh, you’ll never believe who’s in this room. That guy David Bowie I was telling you about.” He said, “I’m gonna go over and get him, and introduce you to him.”

At the time, I had short platinum blonde hair, and David had red Ziggy hair. David said, “Pleasure to meet you. I love your hair.” And I said “Well, I love yours too.” We hit it off right away. Later, we were all in the party singing. Stevie was at the piano, and all the R&B who’s who was in the room, Aretha [Franklin], Gladys [Knight], and I started singing. David looked at me and said “You’re a singer?” And I said, “Well, I’m just starting to become professional.” He said, “Maybe you’re interested in going to Japan with me? Your look and everything is right.” I said, “You want me to go to Japan?” I went and that was that.

You met Bowie when he was still in his Ziggy period. Do you remember him making the decision to move on from that character?

When I first met him, he was glam rock and Ziggy, which I loved him in that role. One day, when we were living in London, I used to play Aretha Franklin around him all the time, and Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye. And he said “I want to do soul music, where should we go?” And I said, “Well, we should go to New York, and go to the Apollo. Some of the top R&B acts in the world are at the Apollo.

Do you remember who was playing when you first took them to the Apollo?

Oh yeah. Richard Pryor was the comedian. I remember that so well, because then Richard and I became friends. The Spinners, The Temptations, Cuba Gooding father’s group the Main Ingredient. David thoroughly enjoyed it. He was really excited to be around all those people.

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