Internationally-Acclaimed Chanteuse Makes Plaza Theatre Stage Debut
A “Band of Gold” is wrapped around the jazz-inspired melodious strains of Freda Payne’s distinctive voice guaranteeing a gilt-edged October 28 opening for the Follies’ newest edition entitled Get Your Kicks. “Band of Gold” was the name of the two-million-selling single, first recorded in 1970, that propelled Payne into vocal prominence, and the golden tones are still the signature of this Detroit-bred songbird.
Born in 1942, she grew up listening to the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald and the immortal Billie Holiday and, while influenced by them, developed her own unique style, nurtured as a teenager by attending the Institute of Musical Arts in Detroit. Appearances on local television and radio, augmented by radio commercial jingles, caught the attention of Berry Gordy, head of Motown, who offered her a recording contract, and Duke Ellington, who invited her to sing with his famous orchestra on a two-night stand in Pittsburgh and a consequent offer to take her on as a regular vocalist. But Mama put her foot down and insisted that the ingénue singer finish school first.
At 21, Payne went out on her own in New York, working with such entertainers as the legendary Quincy Jones and comedian Bill Cosby. She also compiled her debut jazz album, After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More!!! Payne soon veered her attention to Broadway and was the understudy to Leslie Uggams for the long-running Hallelujah Baby.
Back in Detroit, a newly-formed record label, Invictus, signed her and soon produced her first mega-hit, the afore-mentioned Band of Gold and a Vietnam protest song, Bring the Boys Home, which was her second gold seller. She also joined Jayne Kennedy and Eartha Kitt in being voted the world’s Most Beautiful Black Women. That made the “oh-so-glamorous” Ms. Payne a natural for venturing into television, where she hosted her own talk show, and the movies (including an Eddie Murphy Nutty Professor opus) over the succeeding decades, in addition to various theatrical productions.
Music, however, remained the key element in her professional work. Last winter she scored rave reviews for her New York nightclub appearance at “Feinstein’s at Loews Regency,” in which her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald had the New York Times proclaiming, “That Ms. Payne can even begin to duplicate Fitzgerald’s scat-singing interludes attests to her formidable technique and swing roots.”
All of which talents are in prime evidence on the Plaza Theatre stage where she headlines through Dec 31.
The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies has been seen by nearly three million patrons, and celebrates the music and dance of the 30s, 40s and 50s with a cast ranging in age from 55 to 85 years young. The show features lavish, Broadway-caliber production numbers and plays five days a week, late October through May 17. The Follies is housed in downtown Palm Springs’ historic Plaza Theatre–a charming, neon-encrusted, storybook old movie house–and is an attraction unto itself.
Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (760) 327-0225 or online at www.psfollies.com.