The Illinois Rock and Roll Museum on Route 66 presents these two female musicians from our category “Chicago’s Girls of Rock “. This team has had an extended history and AMAZING career together on the Chicago music scene since 1983! – performing in multiple original and cover bands with several lineup versions. Along the way they have written, recorded and released music and performed together at countless live shows with some incredible band members and guest musicians. They are extremely active today in one of Chicago’s favorite bands “The Gingers”! We bring you a timeline and gallery of “Chrissie Olstad” & “Debbie Cielen”
A Full version of the Complete Bio will be featured on our Wiki site Soon to be Launched!
BAND(s) HISTORY: Chrissie Olstad, lead singer & guitarist and Debbie Cielen, lead guitarist & backing vocals met in 1983 at the formation of the Chicago-based band “Illicit”.
The five-year journey of “Illicit” spanned from 1983 to 1988 and encompassed an evolution in their music style as well as its members. Their writing style went from pop (version 1.0) to driving rock (version 2.0) then to pop with a hint of danceable funk (versions 3.0 & 4.0). The band performed at all the popular Chicago and surrounding area clubs including Thirsty Whale, The Avalon, Clubland at The Vic, McGregor’s & The Park West to name a few.
Illicit 1.0 / 1983 to 1984: Original members included: Chrissie Olstad; Debbie Cielen (Bitch, The End); Mary Godfrey (Sweet Revenge, Faces Of Emotion) / Keys/Bass; Denise Sebo /Bass/Guitar; Bobby Conforti/Drums. The band released one four-song demo in 1984.
Illicit 2.0 / 1984 to 1985: The band added guitarist Lorrie Kountz (Bitch, Tough Love, The Girls); who had performed with Debbie in the original version of “Bitch”, after Godfrey’s departure. Having two original “Bitch” guitarists in the band brought even more attention & show opportunities and also allowed Chrissie to focus on being the band’s un-tethered energetic front person. Illicit 2.0’s song “Shocking ” appeared on Silver Fin Records “Class of 1985” Rock-n-Roll album.
Illicit 3.0 / 1985 to 1986: Illicit became a four-piece and utilized electronic keys and drum machine after Conforti departed. Olstad, Cielen, Kountz & Sebo focused on songwriting while their management shopped them to record companies. They had a few rare live appearances as a four-piece– including the “Class of 85’ record release party at The Odeum in Villa Park.
Illicit 4.0 / 1986 to 1987: The band moved back to live players with the addition of keyboardist Eleanor Kas (Feline) & drummer Gwen Wilson (Feline). They continued to write, record & perform a pop, danceable style with a bit of heavy guitar mixed in. On January 31, 1987, they had a sold out record release performance at The Park West for their forty-five single “I Won’t Sing In My Underwear” on Pink Street records. The novelty song received some local press, airplay and was featured on the syndicated radio show Doctor Dimento.
Illicit 5.0 / 1988 to 1989: The band recruited drummer Liz Vaccarello after Wilson & Kas departed and used sequenced keyboards to complete their sound. Later with the same members Olstad, Cielen, Kountz, Sebo & Vaccarello – they changed their name to Who’s Ginger!? (1.0) and performed together until Kountz later departed in early 1989.
Who’s Ginger!? 2.0 / 1989 to 1991: Olstad, Cielen & Sebo continued with the name “Who’s Ginger!?” – wrote, recorded and performed with a poppy, funky, R & B dance style. They released a four-song cassette EP “Now What” – produced by the band and Eileen “Danger Girl” Krause (Madam X, Sweet Revenge) – who later joined Olstad & Cielen on guitar in version 3.0. Drummer Mike Kroell (Ten-28) appeared on the recordings as well as at live shows.
Who’s Ginger 3.0 / 1990: Drummer Todd Sucherman (Styx) & bassist Hank Horton (Dennis DeYoung) performed on a demo with this version of Who’s Ginger!? 3.0 – and also appeared with them on Columbia College’s Music Alive cable show syncing to their songs “For Free” & “Run to Me”. Also appearing on the show with Olstad, Cielen & Krause were Donna Kirkendall (Malcheck, Bitch) Eleanor Kas (Illicit 4.0) & Rick Lucier (Malcheck).
Who’s Ginger 4.0 / 1990 to 1991: In this chapter of Who’s Ginger!? Chrissie & Debbie brought back drummer Mike Kroell and recruited his bassist brother Rick Kroell (Ten-28), as well as Lucier on keys and guitar, and Kirkendall, & Kas as back-up vocalists – “The Gingettes”.
Gena’s Bouquet / 1993 to 1996: Chrissie & Debbie formed the band “Gena’s Bouquet” when their songwriting interests transitioned from the dance pop they had been writing to a darker and heavier 90’s sound. They brought along bassist Rick Kroell and recruited drummer John “JC” Cacielles (The Bond) as well as Tony Placencia/ guitar vocals. The band recorded an eight-song demo with Krause producing once again. Placencia left the band early on and they remained a four-piece. In 1995 “Gena’s Bouquet” released a full length CD “Petal Faster” produced by the band and Gravity Studio’s Doug McBride (Veruca Salt) on their own “Way Out!” record label. The release received airplay on Midwest college radio and was distributed at Chicagoland record stores.
1996 to 2006: Olstad & Cielen had a long stretch of separate projects, including Chrissie’s 1996 solo project recordings and Cabaret Metro performance of her songs with the rockin’ members of Simple Simon who were the powerhouse backing band for her project. In 1997 Debbie reunited with Lorrie Kountz & Denise Sebo in the industrial rock band “Rash. In 1998 Rash released a full length CD “Save Yourself” on Delinquent Records. In 1999 Chrissie was recruited by Simple Simon to perform in their cover band “Red Pop”. Chrissie was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of that same year. Having that musical outlet helped her get to the other side. Still Chrissie & Debbie were always drawn back together – occasionally performing as an acoustic duo, as well as playing the blues with Uncle Bob & The Bluzers.
HAG 1.0 / 2006 – 2011: Olstad & Cielen were ready to start a new project that would not involve song writing – instead playing their favorite classic rock cover songs. They recruited Patti Prendergast (Bitch/Tough Love/ Kevin Lee & Kings) to form the classic rock cover band “HAG” Drummers, included Rick Dvorak (The Willies) & they later added keyboardist Sandy Lavorini (The Girls).
HAG 2.0 / 2012 – 2014: Jean von Graf (Romantic Fever) joined HAG on bass after Patti & Sandy departed. Drummers for HAG 2.0 included bringing back Bobby Conforti (from the original Illicit lineup) to perform at Edison Park Festival show. In late 2012 drummer John Sweeney (Star Trooper, One Arm Bandit, Street Kids, Ravage) was recruited after the girls saw him perform at the Haymakers Reunion with One Arm Bandit. Chrissie, Debbie and Jean also performed together in their side project, HAG “unplugged”.
“The Gingers” Redheads that Rock! / 2015 to present: Chrissie recruited bassist Kerri Jane (Fabulous Janes, Libido Funk Circus, Catfight) after von Graf’s departure. The band changed their name to The Gingers to match their shared hair color. After a few performances Emi Fukuda (Skirt Steak, Ready Freddies) was added to play keys, guitar, flute and more! The Gingers perform a high energy tribute to the best 70’s & 80’s rock we all know and love! Members include: Chrissie Olstad, Debbie Cielen Kerri Jane, Emi Fukuda & John Sweeney.
Foo La La – All Female Foo Fighters Cover Band – Dec 2018 to present: Chrissie, Debbie, & Emi along with drummer Liz Ele (The Sentinels, Arsenal Road, Skirt Steak, Ready Freddies) perform together as Foo La La. The band formed for a one time performance at “Cover for Covers” fundraiser held at Schubas Tavern, Chicago. The show went over so well and the girls loved performing the music, so they decided to make this band a side project.
Videos of all Chrissie & Debbie’s bands can be found on Chrissie’s YouTube page playlists:
Foo La La