UPDATED: 9-6-2002

DOO-WOP SOCIETY SHOW #41 (8/3/2002)

Ladies' Night at Doo Wop Society August 3 Show

By Kate Karp

Chicks ruled at Doo Wop Society Show #41. They didn’t get in anyone’s face about it; they got under the skin instead. I’ve still got the goose bumps to prove it.

All three acts were veteran “girl groups” (with an exceptional guest appearance by The Calvanes’ Fred Willis), one from New York and two from Los Angeles. Each group had most of the original members and all the original leads (not counting Richard Berry), perhaps demonstrating the superior resilience and longevity of females over males. And to counterbalance the political correctness of that comment, the ladies remain masters of vocal harmony.

For the most part, the show flowed like a river, with only a couple of rough currents that perhaps a little more rehearsal might have smoothed out. The audience, smaller than usual, behaved itself. The sound quality was good. DWS board members Phyllis Bardone, Manuel Jimenez and Ray Baxter emceed the show and have never seemed more at ease onstage. And of course Marvin Kaminsky, despite having left the board following his retirement to Nevada, was running his butt off and schmoozing everyone.

Ray Regalado paid tribute to Arthur Lee Maye, whose absence was sadly conspicuous. Arthur had been a loyal fan of doo-wop. He supported his fellow performers and attended nearly every DWS show. His wide smile and soft-spoken presence were sorely missed.

The Boomers were not in attendance as house band, but the new musicians were well-seasoned pros, particularly the saxophonist. However, at least toward the beginning of the show, they seemed inexperienced at backing up doo-wop groups and frequently played something other than what the vocalists were singing. Happily, they got it together during the second half of the show.

The Dreamers: Fanita Barrett (left), Annette Williams, Jennell Hawkins, Nannette Williams and Gloria Jones.   Freddy Willis of The Calvanes joins the quintet to sing Richard Berry's part.   Jennell Hawkins: "Moments to Remember."

The Dreamers, all originals, provided harmonies that were so intense and soared so high that the first chills didn’t have time to subside before the next goosebumps erupted on top of them. Gloria Jones, Fanita Barrett and sisters Annette and Nannette Williams have maintained their professional quality and presence over their 50 years of performing as The Dreamers, Rollettes, Blossoms, et al (that was Fanita Barrett singing along with Darlene Love on many Phil Spector records). The Dreamers, who got their start as the late Richard Berry's backup group, made love to the audience with “Together,” "Bye Bye Baby" and “Wait for Me,” with bass singer Fred Willis standing in for Richard, and did a number of their own recordings, including the two sides they recorded with Jennell Hawkins on Flip. When Jennell came onstage, she also did a torchy calypso rendition of “Moments to Remember” which was rendered nearly farcical as she tried to contend with a microphone that kept flopping into her face as she accompanied herself on keyboard. Jennell's problems (which I'm told were partly due to her not rehearsing with the band the night before) broke the group's momentum, which is crucial for an opening act. During the second act, though, Jennell belted the song out the way it was supposed to be sung, with The Dreamers’ singing backup behind her. And on her two Dreamers sides, "Since You've Been Gone" and "Do Not Forget," Jennell was awesome.

Shirley Gunter (left) & The Queens: Piper Alvez (center) and Patty Gunter.   During Friday night rehearsals, Shirley Gunter oop-shoops while The Queens ipsie opsie ooh.

Shirley Gunter goes way beyond commanding respect as a performer. She plays down her blindness by hurrying onstage hand in hand with her two Queens and taking her place at the microphone. Her voice is so full of street-smarts that you can almost hear the asphalt. Combined with The Queens’ harmonies, the thrill is so intense that you may want to lie down in that street and let a truck run you over to ease the pleasure. Resplendent in yellow sequined gowns, Shirley, Piper Alvez (an original Queen, née Lula Kenney) and sister Patty Gunter favored the Latin beat, singing "You're Mine," “The Way I Like It” and “Why.” They rocked with favorites “Oop Shoop” and “Ipsy Oopsy Ooh” (great tunes for testing out your false teeth, by the way). And Shirley soloed, torch-style, on "What Difference Does It Make."

“Why didn’t you have us to California before? Don’ ch’all like us?” shouted original Bobbette Reather “Dimples” Dixon (Turner) to the audience, which by now was heated up by the previous two acts and were affirming their enthusiasm by screaming. Dimples herself was pretty hot, mugging and doing the twist in her impossibly high heels during both acts. She was a mischievous, outspoken spokesperson for the group, using the other original Bobbette, Emma Pought (Patron), as her foil, while recent members Debra Thompson and Pam Tate stood in as a Greek chorus.

The Bobbettes: Emma Pought (left), Dimples Dixon,
Pam Tate and Debra Thompson.
  The Bobbettes flock around Louis Woolridge and Eddie Davis.

The Bobbettes had a string of recordings and chose well. “Oh My Papa,” while not a big hit for the group, was a tear-jerker; “Look at the Stars” sounded exactly like the recording (it was a good night for calypso). Uptempo lovers appreciated "Zoomy" and "Speedy," and everyone loved their biggest "doo-wop" ballad, "You Are My Sweetheart." And of course there were two performances of “Mr. Lee/I Shot Mr. Lee.”

The blend of Dimple's and Emma's voices hasn't changed a bit in 45 years, and Dimples’ raspy belt sounded exactly as it did when she was twelve and sang co-lead with Reather on “Mr. Lee.” Pam Tate’s soprano was lovely. All four group members gave disc-worthy performances and nobody left the Petroleum Club feeling let down by The Bobbettes, I assure you.

With the Evil Commercial Radio Network Empire poisoning the airwaves with generic oldies and killing off doo-wop deejays one by one, the best way to ensure that shows like this one continue is to attend and support them. Not just the Doo Wop Society--all of them. Phyllis Bardone and Ray Baxter made this point in their introduction, and it would be well taken. Check websites such as Andrea Siegel’s www.goldenoldiesforever.com and get her concert calendar. Keep the music alive, and thank the performers for making it.

Dreamers Fanita and Gloria greet Calvane Bobby Adams, who's still trying to remember what Calvanes means.   A bunch of rowdies enjoys the show.   Joey Jetson shouts: "They're priced to go! I'm moving 'em out!"

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