Shirley Temple's Grunge Connection, As Remembered by the Melvins' Buzz Osborne

"She tap- danced for us, and she was f---ing amazing," says the singer and guitarist of the late actress. A crucial influence on Kurt Cobain, Osborne dated Temple's daughter Lori Black.
Mirrorpix/Courtesy Everett Collection
Shirley Temple Black and The Melvins' future bassist Lori Black meet the Beatles.

Shirley Temple Black, who died Feb. 10, had a grunge connection: her daughter Lori Black, bassist for The Melvins, dated its leader Buzz Osborne, a crucial early influence on Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who was a member of Osborne's and Lori Black's circle.

Osborne has said that Cobain's career was far less bizarre than what he termed the "massive skeletons" in the family closet of Shirley Temple Black, whose home he visited. "Everything that’s happened -- from Nirvana going crazy and on and on and on -- none of that holds a candle to how weird that situation was," Osborne told Mark Yarm for his grunge history Everybody Loves Our Town. "That’s David Lynch weird," said Osborne. 

Osborne feared Shirley Temple Black's angry husband Charles Black after he and Lori Black broke up in 1992 while recording their big-label debut, Houdini, because the ex-child star's husband had told him about "strangling Japanese soldiers" in World War II.

But Osborne praised Shirley Temple Black, who could have been a great, Buddy Rich-style drummer, if only her mother had not forbidden it as "unladylike."

PHOTOS: Shirley Temple: Her Career in Pictures

"Shirley is a self- made woman," Osborne said. "Shirley's parents squandered every dime she ever made as a child before she had a chance to spend any of it. She got nothing. Zero." 

In Black's memoir, Child Star, she wrote that all but $44,000 of her $3 million-plus fortune was squandered by her controlling parents.

"So she's a pretty tough broad, you know? She'll rip your head off and eat you for breakfast," said Osborne. "She was the ambassador to Czechoslovakia at that point, after being the ambassador to Ghana."

"Their house was unbelievable," said Osborne. "Lots of stuff from the Hearst collection. Amazing shit-- they had really great taste. And there was an Oscar sitting there. Shirley talked about her acting a lot. At one point they had her playing drums, and she had a recording of her playing drums when she was a kid, and she sounded like f-----g Buddy Rich. And then she
showed us how tap dancing is really just drumming. She tap- danced for us, and she was f---ing amazing."

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Osborne's bandmate Dale Crover recalled, "Shirley was like, 'Yeah, my mom made me give away my drum set because it wasn't ladylike to play drums.' I was like, 'Oh, you couldn't spread your legs with a dress to play drums. I get it.' She was sad about it."

Lori Black, who was not available for comment to THR, shares her mother's musical gift. "Lori was a really solid bass player," said Crover. "She had really good meter and would bust me for speeding up, which helped me become a more solid player. I really liked her. She was really into spirituality and things like that. She really had a tough time because she assumed people wouldn't accept her being in the band. One, being a female, and two, replacing Matt Lukin [the popular bassist who later joined Mudhoney.] "We'd kicked out Lori before [1992] because she had a whole bunch of troubles," said Osborne.

Asked whether The Melvins, who covered the 1941 song "You're In the Army Now" in 2013, might also record an interesting version of Shirley Temple's 1934 hit "The Good Ship Lollipop," Yarm, whose book led to meetings with TV producers but never to a go project, tells THR, ""Well, the Melvins have recorded a ton of covers, including a note-for-note version of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' with Leif Garrett of all people on vocals. So I wouldn't put anything past them, musically speaking."