Cooie Sings

Cooie Sings
Event on 2015-12-08 20:00:00

Doors: 8:00 p.m.  21+ FREE // 18+


This Vermonter was born in St. Albans and raised in Burlington’s South End. My favorite childhood memories are those late night journeys on Route 7 between home and extended family in St. Albans. Our Simpson Motors Oldsmobile was our little acoustic chamber as we six motored through the quiet Vermont countryside. Weary, but we sang our hearts out in that hour-long ride on Route 7. Yes, it used to take nearly an hour to travel, especially in weather. In those years before light pollution, the nighttime landscape was dark, sometimes moonlit, ofttimes not. I was a little sister, and learned to sing harmony by listening to my mom, dad, sister, and brother, and finding a spot for my voice to fill. Sister would let me know if I was stepping on her part! Baby brother sang along, too.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a song playing in my head. I enjoyed noodling on my own, but froze at the thought of an audience. I had taken piano lessons as a child, played a bit on Uncle Woody’s old Gibson, and got my first guitar as a teen. I dutifully self-taught my way through the Bob Dylan songbook, sang and strummed a little bit with a girlfriend, and performed at Stunt Nite at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium.

Asked to sing at an Enfield Revival band practice during my college years at UVM, I ran away in a fright. I couldn’t imagine singing in front of people – people who might be listening to me! I was how many footsteps away from trying this new, potentially life-changing experience? It didn’t matter – I made my choice.

By the early 1970s I had made the transition from I’m-Never-Getting-Married to He’s-The-Love-Of-My-Life. We wedded six months after Valentine’s Day so we could celebrate twice a year, because “you never know.” To this day, forty-plus years later, we never know. We lived down south for 9 years – southern New England. I worked in a loudspeaker factory and studied recording technology in the days when digital was still a dirty word for a new technology considered sterile and lifeless. Careered in bookkeeping. Birthed our darling girlchild (!) and moved right back to the 802 in time for kindergarten, so she could have the experience of growing up in Vermont.

Tobacco had kept me out of small music venues, so the old anxiety didn’t surface. By October 2012, the time was ripe for a turnabout: smoking had been banned at indoor venues in Vermont. I accepted an offer to sit in at a band practice, and they asked me back. A month later I took the plunge and sang out at a local Blues Jam. That’s when I learned I could lose myself in a lyric, with witnesses, and it was not life-threatening. With practice and experience, I became more able to reinterpret my fear as excitement.

When I recounted a while later to a fellow vocalist that it had taken me some 42 years to get up in front of a microphone and sing, someone passing by remarked, “Wow, that sure was a long walk!” and I had to agree. His remark put me in mind of the steps I’d refused to take all those years ago; 42 steps, perhaps?

I’m of the generation in which at the age of 33-1/3, one became an LP, that is, a Long-Playing person. If anyone is the poster adult for It’s Not Too Late, it’s me, remembering that old saw, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Music has been my lifelong companion and source of comfort. My sister’s Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Duane Eddy songs; my brother’s Rip Chords (Hey, Little Cobra). With the 60s came my adolescence – along with folk singers, girl groups, and the British invasion. I had the extreme good fortune of owning a transistor radio and listened to AM radio into the early morning hours. Joey Reynolds on WKBW, at 1540 in the dial – 50,000 Watts coming to me from Buffalo NY! Quick switch to 1520, WPTR in Albany. I could hear my favorite songs a dozen times every night. It was heavenly until the batteries gave out.

This Beatlemaniac quickly switched allegiance over to the Rolling Stones, who had a more gritty, provocative, bluesy sound.

Little did I know, in those days before the interwebz, that the Stones were performing covers of real live American blues artists who struggled outside the mainstream music industry. Just take a listen to Irma Thomas singing Jerry Ragavoy’s “Time Is On My Side,” or Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do,” and you’ll hear classic cases of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.

Jimi, Janis, Cream, Spencer Davis Group, The Animals, Traffic, Procol Harum, Blind Faith, Chicago Transit Authority, Stevie Wonder. Earth, Wind & Fire, Blood Sweat & Tears, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris, Delbert McClinton, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Mark Knopfler, and the list goes on. I’m entranced by Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells backing up Laura Nyro’s sweet soprano. And Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” album with James Cleveland.

I’m drawn to the Blues, and to ballads. Only in recent years have I started to trace blues music lineage back to the sources: Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Etta James, Otis Rush, T-Bone Walker, Rosetta Tharpe, Willie Dixon, Memphis Slim. Also, Leon Russell and JJ Cale’s 1979 Paradise Studio recordings have been an inspiration to me. Those guys played up a storm.

And the name Cooie? A nickname I got from my kid brother decades ago – I really think it’s gonna stick. Larry Donlin, wherever you are, you lost that bet: you owe me twenty 1970 dollars.

at Monkey House
30 Main Street
Winooski, United States

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