By Randy Cordova
Millions of people know who Stevie Nicks is. The surprising thing is how many people know who her mother is.
"Stevie always says that Mom has her own fan club," says Barbara Nicks, the 70-year-old matriarch of the Nicks clan. "It's the funniest thing for me to see."
For instance, there was Don Henley's benefit concert held at Union Hall in March. Famous faces were milling about: the ex-Eagle, Bruce Hornsby, Roger McGuinn and, of course, Stevie.
The Fleetwood Mac diva is treated like a hometown heroine whenever she makes appearances in her native Phoenix. Imagine her reaction when the crowd got excited to see Mom make her entrance.
"After the show, we walked from the stage to the dressing trailer," Barbara recalls. "All these people are yelling, "Barbara! Barbara! Look over here, Barbara!" Stevie just looked at me and laughed, "Oh, Mother!"
Laughter is not uncommon between the two, Barbara says.
"We're really very close. We always have been. She's really a very special little girl. I mean, here I am calling her a little girl, but she always will be my little girl in a way."
The little girl is actually 49 years old, an accomplished singer and songwriter who would be recognized almost anywhere. She's one of rock's most unique voices, both literally and figuratively. Her songs are touched by fairy tale and fantasy, and she sings them in a unmistakable cry touched with gruffness.
The passion for the exotic is something Stevie acquired from Barbara. "I love fairy tales," she says. "I would read Stevie the stories over and over, and she would just sit there enraptured."
She attributes Stevie's inimitable vocal style to an adolescence spent listening to Janis Joplin records over and over.
"It was always Janis Joplin," she says. "She and Lindsey Buckingham opened for Janis in San Francisco, and she was just so excited. She gave me one of Janis' jackets, and I have it in a closet here."
That's one thing Barbara Nicks takes pride in. In a way, she has become the caretaker of a virtual Stevie museum. The house she shares with Stevie's father, businessman Jess Nicks, is filled with mementos of her daughter's spectacular career.
There is a Grammy that Stevie earned, and gold and platinum awards, not only from the Recording Industry Association of America but from various countries on the map.
"I take it very seriously. The way she moves around, and with all the people that go in and out of her house, things have a tendency to disappear. She knows that when they're here, they're safe, so I have tons of stuff."
There are even stage clothes that her daughter is known for wearing. The baroque style of dress, with flowing capes and gypsy shawls, was widely imitated by long-haired Stevie wannabes in the '70s and '80s.
"She has a special designer that creates these outfits for her," Barbara says. "She has given me a number of things and has had clothes made for me.
"I wear them once in a while, but we don't go out that much anymore. And really, the older people I socialize with wouldn't get too excited about seeing me in a long black shawl that's dragging across the floor."
There's something about being keeper of the Nicks' flame that appeals to Barbara in more than just a motherly fashion. The native of Bisbee is a lifelong collector who used to haunt estate sales in her younger days, looking for dolls and antique furniture.
"I'm more than a collector. I keep saying I'm a junkie for collectibles, and Stevie will say, very firmly, "Mother, please don't call yourself a junkie.' "
After Stevie presented her mom with the song Silver Spring, Barbara opened a shop devoted to collectibles in the '70s, Silver Springs Emporium. She later moved the store to Payson, renamed it Old Hopi House, and it's still in business, a 2,000-square-foot building filled with dolls, antiques and mementos that Stevie has donated.
The Nicks family is very close. Stevie's younger brother, Chris, works for her, designing merchandise that bears his sister's face and name. When Jess owned Compton Terrace, it was the only venue Stevie or Fleetwood Mac would appear at while in the Valley.
When the children were young, the family was constantly on the road due to Jess' business commitments. Stevie never attended school in Phoenix, instead going to school in Southern California.
The regular upheavals drew the family closer together, Barbara says. "We've always been close, and I think that had something to do with it. Stevie would have killed for her baby brother. She was so protective."
And Mom, who has a Yorkshire terrier named Rhiannon, is protective of her only daughter. She cringes when she recalls the first time she saw the cover of Buckingham Nicks, the 1973 duo album that effectively served as Buckingham's and Nicks' audition for Fleetwood Mac. The infamous cover photo featured the two in a provocative state of undress.
"It was a big shock, let me tell you. She immediately showed it to me, and I just told her, "We're going to have to think about this before we show it to Dad.' Stevie didn't want him to see it at all. But she was young then, and it's something she was talked into."
Through the years, Barbara has maintained friendly relations with Buckingham, a onetime Nicks flame, as well as other members of Fleetwood Mac. She'll not only catch the band's concert at Desert Sky on Wednesday, she plans to hit shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
"I just love the music, and I love seeing everyone again. They're all so nice to me."
Stevie's music is a constant presence in the house. Mom has her favorite songs: Landslide, Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You and Leather and Lace all spring to mind. She's passionate about Angels, a wistful ballad about the end of life. The song is unreleased, but Stevie gave her mother a demo recording.
"She wrote it about two years ago. I've only played it for a few people. I told Stevie that it would be great for Touched by an Angel, which I love, but I don't know if she'll send it to them. "I've made her promise me, just promise me, that when I go, this is the song I want played. It's just beautiful."
Then there are the ones that she doesn't play that often. Take Sometimes It's a Bitch, a track from 1991's Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks.
"Every once in a while, there's one that doesn't particularly hit me. That's one of them. I wasn't crazy about her using that word, but that's just my age.
"But almost everything else she does is wonderful. There is a story behind all of these songs - that's what she writes about. It's always so honest, that's why the public loves her so much."
And the public responds by flooding Stevie with letters filled with affection. Barbara knows what it is like to be on the receiving end. Letters come in every week, either to her home address or the business in Payson.
"I think a lot of people write letters to her and never hear anything, so they write to me. They're so nice to me and they write such wonderful letters.
"It's like they are so moved by what she's done, and how her music has affected their lives. I've saved stacks of letters. I think when she's like 75 or 85, it will be nice for her to just go through these and see how much she means to people."
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