Graceland Girls put together complete set for Silverbow show

Group pays homage to the great rock piano players

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004

J. Althea and The Graceland Girls formed in April with the purpose of playing three songs - all Elvis - at the 25th Annual Alaska Folk Festival. By their late June Concert in the Park performance, they knew five more - not just the King.

For Saturday's 7:30 p.m. show, they've put together one solid 15-or-16 song set. It's all rock 'n' roll from the 1950s and most of it pays homage to the great piano players of the time: Little Richard, Fats Domino, etc. (They're still working on Jerry Lee Lewis.)

The four-piece band includes two piano players, J. Althea and Cheryl Bschor, plus guitarist Martha DeFreest and "front-up" singer Claudia Hawkins. Diana Brownson, a professional piano player and choral director in the Los Angeles area, and a friend of Althea's, will sit in on most of the tunes.

Saturday's show is open to all ages and free, but donations are appreciated.

"It was an accident," Althea said of the band's beginning. "There were three songs that I wanted to play at Folk Festival, and they all happened to be Elvis songs. They were expressions of my personality, of something I was going through."

"It was just a funny little thing I was going to do to get out and vent my feelings, and so I decided to ask Cheryl to join me on piano."

Bschor, the leader of Cheryl and the Saloon Boys, recruited DeFreest, who played fiddle with the Boys. She switched to guitar. Hawkins, an accomplished guitar player who has performed at dinner clubs, is the newest member of the group.

The Girls bill themselves as "gorgeous middle-aged gals playing 50s rock."

"We're still a new band, so we're still learning most of the songs," Althea said. "I wouldn't call it doo-wop. I would say doo-wop is a genre of 50s rock. I will say that our emphasis is on harmonies and backup vocals, but we don't have backup vocalists, we have front-up vocalists."



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