Neal Gladstone Channel
Audrey Perkins' Bio
I have been singing in groups since raising my hand when our elementary school music teacher came into our 5th grade classroom and asked who wants to be in the choir. In 8th and 9th grade at Robinson Secondary School in Northern Virginia I had Mrs. Bolten for choir every day. Then I had the great privilege of having Mr. Stamback for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade at Lake Braddock Secondary School. I had symphonic choir every day 4th period. I was the Chair of the alto section, which meant I was an officer working closely with Mr. Stamback and the other section leaders. The highlight was when we sang “Shenandoah” down at the Shenandoah Valley Music Conservatory. It was a capella in eight parts. To have 92 people singing in 8 parts coming down to a whisper together was viscerally thrilling.
I also sang in a second group in high school, The Dynamics. Oh boy. There were 12 of us women. It was the mid-70’s, which meant we wore a one-piece kind of jumpsuit that was flowery at the top with solid bellbottoms down below. We rehearsed before school and performed at little functions like Kiwanis and Rotary and whoever else had to suffer through our choreographed versions of “I Am Woman” (hear me roar) and “Sweet Gypsy Rose.”
When I was 21, I traveled from Chicago with my boyfriend to Oregon to scout out a possible place to settle. This was May of 1980, and we stayed in Philomath with John’s alternative high school English teacher from Chicago and her husband – Barbara and Neal Gladstone. Neal played some of his music for us that night, which kept us up until 2 a.m. I was mesmerized that this guy could write like that. When John and I returned home to Chicago to earn money to move back to Oregon, I had a cassette of Neal’s music, which I played and learned every word to. (A friend and I even wrote a parody of Neals’ “Blackberry” song!).
When we moved here in 1981, Neal had no idea that I sang, much less that I had memorized all of his music. He was just beginning to sing with a guy named Rick Mattingly, and I ended up joining them, forming a trio. I remember singing at The Valley restaurant during brunch on Sundays. We quickly added bass and drums and went electric with a band called Gladly, playing at clubs and bars like Mother’s Mattress Factory (remember Mothers?!). We were playing cover tunes mostly, which I found interesting given that Neal was such an amazing writer. After about a year of this, I convinced him to ditch the cover tunes and do original music only – concerts.
Our first concert was at the Unitarian Fellowship (before it was remodeled). This must have been about 1983. A wonderful bevvy of musicians joined us, including Neal’s wife, Barbara, who was in the band from then on and became my other music partner with Neal. The second show was at the Art Center, and it was here that we started in on the comedy schtick. Next were doing shows at Corvallis High School – oh, those were the days! We had full run of the theater for a couple of weeks, so we could set up elaborate staging, like rigging it up so that Neal was raised in a fake Dodge Dart to ascend into car heaven at the end of “Dodge Dirge.” Or when he was lowered down into a cauldron of “boiling saliva” (dry ice effect) for our heavy metal song.
In 1987, Fred Child, Neal and I went down to California and secured a record contract with Kaleidoscope Records in San Francisco. (Since then, Rhino Records bought Kaleidoscope and then Warner Brothers bought Rhino Records.)
When we returned, we started a radio show on Oregon Public Broadcasting, which was broadcast on OPB, KLCC, and KUOW (Seattle) from 1987-91. The Neal Gladstone and Company Radio Show was a half-hour show, a bit like Saturday Night Live for radio, with fake news broadcasts, “Most Things Disregarded,” fake commercials, and, of course, a private detective – Nick Drisophila (Latin name for fruitfly). The show included music, of course, some of which Neal wrote specifically for that radio show. These songs were written for the character of Gladys Epiglottis, a night club singer that Nick knew. We transported her songs via that character to our stage shows with songs like “I’ll Do It” (I’ll Do It - YouTube) and “Men.”
Early on, Neal and I decided that we didn’t want to overexpose in the Corvallis area, so we decided to only play two times a year locally – two shows every Valentine’s weekend at the Majestic Theater, and then one big show at Tyee Winery the last Saturday of July each summer. This worked to keep the shows feeling special and charged with wonderful energy from our amazing audiences! We played Tyee for 21 years!! before having to stop in 2012 because of Neal’s health (Parkinson’s :<(. Alas, our thirty-one-year run had come to an end.
Anyone reading this who had the good fortune of seeing and hearing Neal’s work knows how indebted to him we all are for the rare, rare gifts he brought into our lives through his art, talent, imagination, and hard work. Throughout my entire musical partnership, I remained (tied with many others, I’m sure) the President of The Neal Gladstone Fan Club. I put him in the category of legendary. Corvallis’ Big Fish. And someone that, if this planet doesn’t blow up first, will be discovered by the bigger world someday.
With that era over, I found myself in my 50’s having to move on from a musical partnership that dates back to when I was 22. I picked the guitar back up after only playing a bit in high school, took some lessons with Adam Scramstad, and gradually began being able to accompany myself – A TAD, at least for tiny special occasions on very simple songs (like singing Neal’s “Wedding Wish” for weddings of friends and family). I currently sorely miss the variety of singing Neal’s songs as well as the rich vocal harmonies with Barbara and Neal. I’m still hopeful that I can create another band with such rich vocals and a great variety of musical styles.
Just after Neal and I stopped our performing, I started singing jazz with Winston McCullough’s Gratitude Jazz Band, which was a fun new genre to explore. Shortly there after, I was asked to join a forming swing band with Bill Pfender, Paul Regan, John Bliss, and Page Hundermer. We currently call ourselves Swing and a Ms.. I’m having fun with this new band. It has been fun to learn some of America’s canon of music, to be able to travel and sit in with other groups now because I know these popular songs from the 30’s and 40’s.
I am unspeakably grateful to Barbara and Neal Gladstone for helping to create three decades of – what feels like – the luckiest journey a person could go on.
I’m still making my way as a musician. All along the way, I have not only sung with Neal and Company, but I have also recorded and sat in with Dave Plaehn and Jeff Hino. Dave and I have been working together since about 1983, both in his band and in Neal’s band. And this connection is still alive and well. I’m proud to have worked with such an excellent musician and songwriter as Dave Plaehn, especially on some of the recordings that he’s produced.
I extend my gratitude to these other musicians with whom I’ve had the privilege of playing over the years here in the Northwest: My biggies are Neal and Barbara Gladstone and Fred Child, as well as Dave Plaehn and Jeff Hino. Right behind them are Joel Garfunkel, Gary Nolde, Brian Bucolo, Mike Grattan, Kendall Lee, Bret Godfrey, John Skillman, Fred Bryan (AKA Lentil Bean), Rick Cooper, Randy Keisling, Mark Lynch, Fred Berman, Harry Oxenhandler, Jim Bromm, Jan Dymond, David Burham, Suzanna Doyle, Nancy Sowdon, Jory Aronson, John Friday, Anne Grabe, Mark Weiss, Cliff Pereira, Cheri Pereira, Tim Hardin, Creighton Lindsay, Debra Lindsay, Sophie, Lindsay, Claire Lindsay, Johanna Beekman, The Ginseng and Tonic Singers! (you know who you are!), Leigh Ann Starcevich, Bev Brassfield, Carolyn Lochert, Ray Brassfield, Bill Foss, Ron Amistadi, Rick Mattingly, Gray Eubank, Diane Tarter, Blou Carmen, Sandy Bradley and the Twins – Greg and Jere Canote, Harry Oxenhandler, Rita Brown, Bill Smyth, Mike Curtis, Maggie Grube, The Grube Family, Winston McCullough, Sarah McCullough, John Edwards, Andy Weiss, Peter Argyers, Steve Matthes, Anne Grabe, and my current band with John Bliss, Page Hundermer, Paul Regan, and Bill Pfender. There are, no doubt, some of you that I’m not thinking of at the moment. Contact me if you’ve been left off of this list!