On what would have been her 92nd birthday, singer/songwriter Peggy Lee was honored last night at The Stage at Island Park in Fargo. I had great fun talking with Holly Foster Wells, Peggy’s grandaughter, and other family members who flew in from Los Angeles to help open the Midland Continental Depot Transportation Museum at Wimbledon, North Dakota, earlier in the day. The museum houses a Peggy Lee “room.” Peggy Lee’s father ran the depot and others in the Jamestown area in the 1930’s.
Others in the audience included Peggy’s longtime harpist and friend Stella Castellucci who also came from Los Angeles. The whole evening had a wonderful feel to it.
Peggy Lee began her singing career at North Dakota radio stations including WDAY in Fargo where program Ken Kennedy gave Norma Egstrom her stage name. Not long after, Benny Goodman “discovered” her.
Singer Stacy Sullivan and company brought their Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee from LA to Fargo and the night before to Jamestown. It’s a flat out terrific show. Sullivan doesn’t try to mimic Peggy Lee in any way. Instead, she and musical director/pianist Jon Weber and bassist Steve Doyle seem to love to re-interpret or “mess” with PL’s songs. (Peggy Lee herself was famous for doing the same with other people’s tunes.)
I have been a lifelong Peggy Lee fan. Now, I am also a Stacy Sullivan fan.
Unlike other tribute shows, hers is not a collection of Peggy Lee hits. In the show, Sullivan sings only the Peggy Lee songs that add to the telling of her life story.
Over the famous Fever bass line, Sullivan quietly sings Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek. The affect is dazzling and as close as she gets to singing Miss Lee’s signature song.
For the first time ever last night and Friday night in Jamestown, Sullivan publically performed The Folks Back Home, a wonderful song Peggy penned with songwriter Paul Horner but never released. It is part of Stacy’s brand new It’s A Good Day: A Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee album. It is an unmistakable love letter to North Dakota from one of the state’s most famous natives.
The Folks Back Home
Peggy Lee/ Paul Horner
Was I ever there? Was it ever real?
I see old friends and do you know how I feel?
I think of the folks back home.
Each time I go there, they’re so nice to me.
They never change a bit, they’re still the folks back home.
And yes, I see them now and I remember a lot of things.
Like the old railway station and the schoolyard swings.
And when the that cold, old wind would blow a blizzard,
blowing snow around.
It would cover all the houses,
till we’d lose the ground… somehow.
The folks back home,
I guess everybody knew that I would roam.
I’ve been a roamer all my life.
Just ask the folks back home.