Life may hold nothing but precious stones for her now, but Pebbles—born Perri Arlette McKissack in San Francisco—has spent some memorable time on the rocks. Her divorced mother raised four children alone, working as a waitress and housekeeper. "We were poor," says the singer. "I think that's why I was so motivated." At 16, she landed a production deal with a local musician, but within months her career was derailed by pregnancy. She married her daughter Ashley's father, a musician, but it was a less-than-perfect match (she refuses now even to give his name). After a year, she says, "I told him to forget it."
Finding work in an Oakland, Calif., real estate office, Pebbles met contractor George L. Smith, who in 1985 put up $80,000 to bankroll her second assault on the music world. The result was a demo tape and the video for "Mercedes Boy"—a shimmering single about an autoerotic female driver—and a contract with MCA. Pebbles and Smith, who is 20 years her senior, married soon after.
The two live outside San Francisco with Ashley, now 5, and Smith's daughter from a previous marriage, Jennifer, 16. Life isn't all familial bliss and exotic baubles though—Pebbles still has to look out for Pebbles. "I'm very sensitive when it comes to my work." When shown a "terrible" video for "Girlfriend," her second hit single, she re-edited another version herself. She also plans to call all the shots on her next LP. "I'm not going to let someone else make or break my career," she says. "If I'm in control and things don't happen, at least I was in control."
Pebbles has heard all the jokes. Where's Bamm-Bamm? How's Dino? What's the zip code for Bedrock? But lately the kidding has stopped. The pig-tailed tyke nicknamed after Fred Flintstone's prehistoric toddler has grown into a 23-year-old vixen with a million-selling debut album, Pebbles. And she's indulging herself with "a zillion fur coats," closets full of clothes and a few new cars.