Monday, November 30, 2009

Part Two: An Interview with K Anderson Matthews

Jan.s: You’ve previously shared with us some of the background to how your interest in music developed. A family sharing music, beginning with your Grandparents whom I believe are of Norwegian heritage.

KAM: Aren't you something else?! My parents are of Norwegian heritage. My family hailed from Skien; Flekkefjord and Sogndal, the southern coast and the middle of Norway. I was fortunate to have travelled around in 1976 and saw the little towns that they came from.

I was very lucky to have connected with some distant relatives in Sogndal and spoke what little Norwegian I knew with them and saw my Great Great Grandfather's farm on the hillside overlooking the fjord with gorgeous waterfalls... Thank God, I made that trip!

I had studied Norwegian at the University of Minnesota back in the 70's, don't remember the language much now, but, I hope I have retrained the accent...that is a long story. I had a good friend Vivi in Oslo I stayed with and was able to spend several months in Norway touring around. Most of what I remember about my Norwegian heritage was kept alive by all the Nordic dishes (lutefisk and lefse, kransekake, jarlberg cheese, goat's cheese, fenalor, smoked salmon and all that herring!) my mother served at holiday times and the Norwegian grace we said. "Ja, you betcha" and Ole and Lena jokes are something of the folklore of Scandinavians because of the influx of so many Scandinavian immigrants that settled in Minnesota.

jan.s: Tell me more about the influences of this on your life and music…?

KAM: When I was studying Norwegian during my college years, I performed some Viking songs and Scandinavian/American immigrant songs for my classmates.. easier than writing papers about Knut Hamsun, Henrik Ibsen or any of the other dark, Norsk authors, I thought. I had already done tons of meaningful essays! So because of all this, I nearly had a degree in Scandinavian Literature..which is popular in Minnesota.. but where else? Norway! I guess.

Jan.s: You have a Scandinavian sense of humour K...! Now can I ask you where that humour came from in your family?

KAM: I think the major influence goes back to my Grandfather again.. he was so funny telling all the Norwegian jokes.. He would dress up as Santa and read the "Night Before Christmas" in a Norwegian accent, and we thought he was Santa, but why does he talk so funny? ..playing his violin for his grandchildren dressed in a top hat and tails, doing magic tricks, pulling flowers out of his sleeves and petting his fake skunk that looked real to a small child. And we wondered who he was? Who was that man in that hat? He was a wonderful musician and performer and poet!

He made it all look so easy and loved the music he played! His toe tapping, I remember most..counting out the beat! There was a book written about him years ago, which described him as a real taskmaster with his bands and orchestras, he taught music in many public schools.. and every note had to be perfect! Plus, my mother had a gorgeous voice and was always singing, she sang for weddings and funerals and in the church choir.. her loving, selfless, accepting attitude made me think anything was possible. Listening to her sing as she cooked, now that was really great!!! She is truly the only person I know that Never said an unkind word about anyone! That's sort of like having Gandhi as a Mom.

And I must remark about my Dad, I could write a book about the energy of this man. That is a whole new topic, to go into another day... He was an incredibly generous, complex but, gifted man!

So yes, my Norwegian heritage was very important to me. But, mainly I was blessed to have parents that believed in kindness; integrity, loyalty, hard work and they worked hard to teach us, by example, to be at our best and love and accept everyone!

Jan.s: K, yours is a great heritage and I'm so happy you've shared it with us. I can almost see, hear and share a meal with your family - mmm goat's cheese, smoked salmon and food which I can only guess at along with...' all that herring!' and "Ja, you betcha'...! Next time we'll have to hear more about Ole and Lena in Minnesota!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Interview with K Anderson Matthews

Jan.s: K, who were your musical influences?

KAM: My first was my mother and older sister. We all hung around the piano and Mom and Connie played pop, jazz, show tunes, hymns, folk songs, and novelty songs from many eras. We mostly we sang the songs from the 1920's through the 60's, the Great American Songbook. I always loved best being together, listening to the lyrics and the sweet melodies with the family all chiming in.

My grandfather was also a huge influence. He was a musician, orchestra and band leader, played cornet and violin and all the instruments a bit. His rendition of the "Flight of the Bumblebee" on his cornet was always amazing to me.

He was a perfectionist/taskmaster according to his music students. For me he just was a sweet man tapping his toe with a musical twinkle in his eye. I learned to love music first at home. I sang my first solo at about six years old in church, with no fear whatsoever. Things changed later on.

My first love was Nat King Cole. As a child of three (when we got our first television set back in the 50's), he had a show where he came floating elegantly down the long stairs singing, "Mona Lisa" and I was awestruck. Also about that time I was convinced Liberace was smiling only at me. Next, I guess was Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and after that Stan Getz.

I listened to every female singer imaginable over and over again. Joni Mitchell, was one of the first singers I totally adored! Judy Collins, before Joni came onto the scene and Arlo Guthrie and Bob Dylan and that's a whole long story. Rock, Folk and Blues influences.

Starting at about twelve, I was learning every Barbara Streisand song. Her first albums were fantastic! During college I became more interested in all the Jazz singers, like Sarah Vaughan; Ella Fitzgerald, definitely Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Anita O' Day, and Mabel Mercer and her expert phrasing and diction and delivery and the list goes on and on. Also, a dear friend of my family, Bonnie Herman had a big influence. She has a stunning voice. She would sing around the piano with my sister and their friends. Those girls were all fabulous singers with wonderful voices that harmonized beautifully. I learned so much from those happy times, singing and most of all listening.

Jan.s: When I first heard you, two of my favourite singer came to mind,both shaped my early singing years.June Christie and Peggy Lee. I also heard a European singer I had the great good fortune to do some study with, Norma Winstone.

KAM: I like things to be simple and subtle. Not too much for embellishing. Peggy Lee, is a favorite of mine. I love June Christie's rendition of "You're Blase" And Norma Winstone is a wonderful artist. Thanks so much for suggesting that I am reminiscent of them.

Jan.s: K, your choice of omitting your full name is somewhat indicative of what I perceive as your nature...there's a quiet consideration and a somewhat elusive's there in your singing as well...very mysterious!

KAM: I don't know if it is mysterious or just plain fear. Often performance anxiety makes me want to flee. I love people but, I tend to be very private, sort of a Garbo-like " I Vant to be Alone" . I feel that anyone who wants to find their own voice or way of expressing a song needs quite a lot of privacy for study and reflection. I omitted my full name and reduced it to K for two reasons. I wanted to assume a new identity as a singer and my first name is too dang long and sounded too formal

Jan.s: K, Thanks so much for sharing some of your journey with us...I look forward to hearing more of your gorgeous vocals and to hearing more of your life stories... K Anderson Matthews is a jazz singer based in Detroit..we found each other through myspace...we've become firm friends...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An Interview with Bobi (nee Nicholas) Petch

Jan.s: Bobi...we're back in contact again after many many years and it's wonderful.

We first met in the 1960's when you were in Sydney working for Dinah Lee. You and Dinah were the hippest gals on the scene!

You emanated style and street the same time I found you always inclusive - both of you were, and with great smiles! I'd love you to share with us about what brought you to Australia and also about working with Dinah....

Bobi: Firstly, my sister Denise Austin lived in Sydney and was one of June Dally Watkins top models. She heard about a job coming up as a Store Model for Farmers Department Store on corner of George/Pitt Streets. Carol, the model who was leaving, was off to open Sportsgirl in Melbourne in 1964 - So having a job to go to, I flew back to Sydney, and flatted in Double Bay with another Kiwi, Jenny Steele, who was the Fashion Compere there. Fashion Co-ordination employed five girls including Judy who married Ken Done, the Sydney artist.

We modelled daily, five parades every day. All the department stores employed their own House Models in those days. I joined in Jan 1965 - closed in July. During that time, Dinah was flying to Australia for The Johnny O'Keefe Show, Saturday Date, (and maybe Bandstand?) I met Dinah (Diane Jacobs) in Auckland at The Casual Shop early on in 1964, then on one Friday night in Queen Street Auckland, she yelled across the road, "Bobi, I have a new name -- pulled out of a hat. Dinah Lee".

When Dinah came to Sydney for TV she would usually pop into Farmers when I was modelling for a catch-up. Often for special parades we used Sydney DJ Tony Murphy (Murf the Surf) as compere. As well as Jenny Steele there was always quite an audience watching the parades. I had my Mod look, completely different from the other models.

Billy Thorpe would also pop in to say hi and watch as well. Dinah's records were shooting up the chart's and her Manager, Jim Haddleton decided to move family and Dinah to Sydney towards the end of 1965. She also moved into the same block of flats in Victoria Street, Potts Point.

At that stage I was flatting with Jacky Holme a full time model with June Dally Watkins. After Fashion Coordination closed its door at Farmers, I was offered another job working for one of the buyer's as I was a shorthand/typist, but turned it down. I was offered the job Managing the new NZ Boutique "The Casual Shop", which was opening on King Street, Sydney beside the Tivoli Theatre exit selling one off dresses usually like Quant, and UK designers.

We opened with a big Fashion Parade at Nat Kipner's Dance club in Pitt Street. Max Merritt and the Meteors backed it. The clothes were made in NZ, and in '65 exported to Sydney. The shop was very successful, and would sell out quickly, while we waited for new stock to arrive. I stayed at the Casual Shop for 5 months. They had dressed Dinah in NZ as it was a very up to the minute Boutique. All Dinah's stage and day clothes came from there at the time.

When Dinah arrived to live, before I left the Casual shop I would usually go out on jobs with her as company. She was doing the Millers Hotel Circuit, Leagues and RSL Clubs, The Motor Club in Sydney at that time, plus TV, Radio etc.

By Christmas '65 Dinah's Manager Jim Haddleton, put it to me, that as Dinah was booked a year in advance that he felt she needed someone to travel with her as Road Manager, Secretary/ PA.

He was married with a young family and didn't have the time - I handed in my notice, and replaced myself at the Casual Shop and I moved into her flat. By early January '66, we were both in Melbourne for promoters Eddie and Pedro. it was such a different scene to Sydney's Club Scene. Dances, Restaurants, the odd Hotel, TV - but it was very busy and exciting, more English than Sydney, with lots of groups, and niteclubs like Berties, Sebastian's, Thumping Tum, just some of where the 'Beautiful People' congregated.

That first trip to Melbourne, Tom Jones and Herman's Hermits were appearing there, and we had met them the week before at The Chevron Hilton, Sydney. EMI, Di's Record Company would invite us to their Media do's, therefore we met a lot of their visiting International Stars. We travelled by taxi daily to every job for at least a year or more, before she bought her first Mini in '66.

Jan.s: Bobi...I can tell there are some more stories here about that Mini...I want to know more...!! Your life and stories are fantastic...I can't wait for the next interview!!