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Tipper Gore's secret

Tipper Gore’s secret — Music’s best-known prude once played drums in a rock band

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There’s a skeleton in the closet of Tipper Gore, wife of Democratic vice presidential candidate Al Gore: The woman who started a campaign in 1985 to put parental-advisory stickers on albums, the woman who has come to personify rock censorship, once pounded drums in a rock band. Though it’s rarely mentioned in any of her official bios, Mary Elizabeth ”Tipper” Aitcheson, a high school sophomore at St. Agnes in suburban Washington, D.C., was a member of the Wildcats in 1964.

”I wanted to play drums, and I got a set when I was 14 and just started to play in the house, to the stereo,” Gore, 44, said in a never-published interview from 1989. ”I liked Ringo Starr, of course. And Sandy Nelson. I had his record, Let There Be Drums, and I’d play along with it.”

With a year or so of playing along under her belt, Gore helped form the Wildcats — ”named after my mother’s car, which was a black Buick Wildcat.” Their repertoire: Chad and Jeremy hits (”A Summer Song”), early Beatles (”All My Lovin’,” ”I Want to Hold Your Hand”), and Bob Dylan (”Blowin’ in the Wind,” ”Don’t Think Twice”). ”It was basically three guitars and drums and a girl who really sang well,” Gore said. ”We practiced at my house ’cause I had the drums, and whenever we had to move them, we had to borrow one girl’s convertible and it would have to not be raining.”

After their first gig at a school fair, the Wildcats were hired to play at a local Democratic rally. Its organizers wanted political stuff, says Gore, ”so we did this song called ‘Barry’s Boys,’ about Barry Goldwater. It was pretty funny.” She recited: ”We’re the bright young men/Who want to go back to 1910/We’re the kids with a cause/Just like grandma’s was.” After a few other dates — and graduation — the group disbanded. Gore, who married the potential vice president from Tennessee in 1970, went on to earn a master’s in psychology and work as a photographer.

Has she ever wondered what might have happened if the Wildcats had stuck with it? ”I don’t know,” Gore said. ”I mean, was there ever an all-girl group from the ’60s that made it?” None that would require a warning label, anyway.