Blond bombshell Rachel Nagy fronts one of the coolest cover combos in rockdom — R&B/garage quintet the Detroit Cobras, which plays Slim’s in San Francisco on Friday.
But it’s nothing compared with her other claim to fame.
“I can take a cow, kill it, bleed it, and literally make it disappear,” the Michigander says. “And you’ll have every kind of soup, sauce, cut of meat, hamburger and a rug for your floor. ’Cause I know how to tan the hide, too.”
Long before she was tanning crowds’ hides with her Cobras, Nagy was a serious student of butchery at a Motor City cooking academy. She didn’t go looking for frozen sides of beef — they found her.
“I was a stripper, and I’d been dancing for awhile, but I was so sick of it,” she explains.
“And one night onstage in New Orleans, I looked out at all these guys in the audience and yelled, ‘I wanna be a baker! I want a nice, normal life!’ Two days later, I got on a Greyhound to Detroit and enrolled in culinary school.”
Once she got cleaver in hand, she says, “I fell in love. And butchering is a skill — other people may look at a leg of veal or beef and just see a big goopy mess, but you have to learn to open ’em like envelopes to find all these perfectly-encased cuts.”
Nagy worked her way up from low-paying restaurants to supermarket-based industrial butchery, which topped out at $52 an hour. Few women were in the business, she adds. “but the guys all respected me ’cause I could out-sailor-talk all of ’em.”
Still, Nagy wound up at the mike for the Cobras, who are playing songs from their new album “Tied & True” on Bloodshot — and renditions of obscure chestnuts like “Try Love,” “It’s My Delight,” and “Leave My Kitten Alone” — in concert.
Her guitarist pal Mary Ramirez started the group 12 years ago.
“While I was just hanging around, drinking beer,” Nagy says. “But they finally got me drunk enough to sing. And they kept getting me drunk, until we’d actually recorded a single, ‘Village of Love.’”
Meanwhile, her union was busted, wages nosedived and she was forced to hang up her apron for good.
Nagy, a proficient hunter with bow and rifle, believes that every carnivore should “go kill something and break it down and eat it, even if it’s just a duck or chicken, to know where their food comes from.”
Naturally, this attitude has bled through to her boyfriend-appraising process, which puts a new spin on the term “beefcake.”
“Once I took that meat class, I couldn’t help it,” she admits. “As I was talking to guys, I’d be breaking them down mentally, figuring out what parts were what and how I’d cut them up. I know it sounds psycho, but I just really loved butchery!”
The Detroit Cobras
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., San Francisco
Contact: (415) 255-0333 or www.slims-sf.com