Born Bianca Thornton (August 8, 1953) she worked variously using that name, or Bianca Oden, from her marriage to Henry Oden, or in combination Bianca Thornton-Oden as well as her preferred nomenclature Lady Bianca. To confuse matters further she is credited as Bianca Odin on recordings of her brief spell on keyboards and vocals with Zappa in 1976 - but this was changed to Bianca Thornton on later re-issues.
Having grown up within a blues and gospel music tradition her obvious talent gained her a four year scholarship at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from the age of 9 where she studied music theory, composition, along with vocal and piano training.
She played in various bands and was performing with the reformed Sly and The Family Stone in 1976 when she was invited to audition for Zappa:
"In 1976 I got a call from the management of Frank Zappa. "What? Who is that," I said to my boyfriend, "and why does he want me?" My boyfriend said, "You don't know who Frank Zappa is? Well, just go down there, and you will see who he is."
Ok. I was very impressed with Mr. Zappa's organization. Wow. He got me transportation to and from the rehearsal and a beautiful hotel room at the Chateau Marmont. When I got there (to rehearsal) Zappa said, "Do you play keyboards?" "Yes." (I said very softly) "What do you want me to play?" "Just play with the band and learn these lyrics."
I decided I would sing with all my might and play piano so he would hire me. Yep. And he did, and that was beginning of my apprenticeship with a genius.... I was working with Ray White before Frank asked me if I knew a good guitar player and he fit Frank's snap just fine." - Liner notes for Philly '76
From the start of the tour in October she was uncomfortable with the sexual and sexist nature of some of Zappa's lyrics and attitudes, along with calls for her to remove her clothes from audience members. To one particularly odious oaf at the show in Boston she retorted "Tell your mama to take HER clothes off and while she's got 'em off, tell her to suck a rat's dick." Which was not appreciated: "Frank was not pleased with me at all; he didn't like my comment to that person in the audience - and told me so".
Around the 15th November, halfway through the tour, she decided to leave the band. Zappa said she was fired but she insists they parted amicably:
I left Frank Zappa because I am a lady. I did not feel I had to be humiliated by taking off my clothes or letting Frank use me as a prop on his show. I feel that my vocals and musicianship should have sufficed. That is why I left, it was my choice.... I was on good terms with Frank when I left. As a matter of fact I returned to see some of his performances when he was in town. We kinda laughed about the whole thing. But it wasn't funny at the time.
It was a mutual agreement, because he wanted to make me do more degrading things on stage than just display my talent. I thought my musicianship should have been enough. And then again I don't know why I had to leave, it just was something that did jive with him. I was a little too conservative at that time, and still am a little. [He wanted] like put his guitar on my body . . . things like that ... I thought I shoudn't have to if Ray and Eddie and Pat and Terry didn't, we were a band all of us.
She can be heard on You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 6, Philly '76 and Zappa/Erie.
She has continued with a career in music garnering acclaim and awards.