OCALA.COM Features Blues at Reilly
Trio performs Patsy Cline, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald
Ocala.com: Each songstress was a powerhouse. Each voice was immediately recognizable and unique. Had they ever shared a stage, it would have been a concert of titanic proportion: Patsy Cline, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald. All have long been gone -- too soon, perhaps, for Cline and Garland -- but their music comes to Ocala Sunday in a concert that borrows its name from the 1930s Billie Holiday classic, "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues."
"They each had a reason to sing the blues," said Katie Deal, a rising star from rural north Georgia who channels Cline in the show.
“I couldn't help but notice they were legendary women who were strong singers in the middle of the century who had similarly terrible lives,” added Angela Ingersoll, who packaged this show and performs Garland's songs.
“It's pretty lonely being a legend,” Ingersoll said.
Deal, daughter of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, said she grew up listening to country music. “We had three radio stations: AM news, oldies and country,” she said. Of course she heard a lot of Cline; “when I grew up I found I have her voice,” Deal added. She put together a one-woman show “Today, Tomorrow & Forever: A Tribute to Patsy Cline.”
Born poor in Gore, Virginia, Cline “had to make her own way,” Deal said; among hardships were her father deserting the family when she was 8, rheumatic fever as a teen and a near-fatal car crash. Cline died in a plane crash in March, 1963, but not before leaving a legacy of country blues such as “Crazy,” “Walkin' After Midnight” and “Leavin' On Your Mind.”
“I'm 37,” Deal said. “Look what she did, she was 30 and she's gone.”
Ingersoll said her first exposure to Garland was, naturally, “The Wizard of Oz.” “I couldn't imagine a scenario more attractive than being a red-haired runaway with a dog. I got hooked pretty quickly.”
Ingersoll, however, had cats and “dishwater-brown” hair, yet for her Garland “captured an idealized version of life.” She grew up listening to her uncle's collection of records by the singer and actress. “A public school music teacher told me I had talent and pushed me into music,” said Ingersoll, now a Chicago resident. “She's my fairy godmother.”
She began singing as a small girl with a deep repertoire such as Garland's signature “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Get Happy” and “The Man that Got Away.” Garland died in June, 1969 of a barbiturate overdose following a long struggle with drugs and alcohol.
“As I grew up, I understood the pain in her life helped me with the pain in my life,” Ingersoll said. This show, she added, “you feel like you're inside your radio.”
Both Garland and Fitzgerald sang “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues” and “I Got Rhythm” at some point during their careers. There's no evidence the three sang together, though reportedly all three individually sang “You Belong to Me.”
Karen Marie Richardson said she grew up with a father “who was an avid lover of jazz. Ever since I was little he said I had Ella in my voice.” But her focus really wasn't on the legendary Fitzgerald “until I started working in New York City and started singing jazz,” she said. “My dad told me I have a jazz voice.”
Fitzgerald, who ran away from home and lived as an orphan in New York and later seized a shot at stardom by winning a talent competition at the famed Apollo Theater, became “my textbook, my Ellapedia,” Richardson said.
Fitzgerald, “first lady of song,” was a rising star but couldn't get booked into the Mocambo Club in Hollywood; Marilyn Monroe reportedly told operators they should, and she'd take a table upfront every week that her friend was there.
Unlike Cline and Garland, Fitzgerald lived a long life, though diabetes claimed her legs in 1993. “But she told people, 'I don't sing with my legs,'” Richardson said. She died in 1996 at age 79.
Richardson will perform Fitzgerald favorites such as “Summertime,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Can't Give You Anything But Love.”
Like Fitzgerald, Richardson said she has “always been extremely different, eccentric, always a dreamer.” She, too, went to New York with nearly nothing and worked her way up. One night pop singer Pink stopped by “to sing with me and I've been singing ever since.
“It's inconsistent,” she added. “But it's my dream.”
Cover Photo: Artists Lounge Live / JPM Photography