Sandy Gardner and Pam Van Dyke Crosby Headline Celebration of Mother’s Day
One had a musical mom, one didn’t. But both Sandy Gardner and Pam Van Dyke Crosby are quick to acknowledge the positive effects that their mothers had on their careers and their lives in general.
According to Pam, the two well-known vocalists will be “singing songs for our moms, for all moms, to celebrate moms,’ in this Sunday’s special Mother’s Day event at the Jazz Depot.
“Both of our moms were very supportive,” says Pam. “My mother’s name was Althea Butler, from Pond Creek, Oklahoma, and she was my voice teacher and accompanist for many years. Along with being a voice and piano teacher, she directed a lot of choirs. And she always encouraged me.”
“My mother couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, and she’d be the first to tell you that,” adds Sandy with a laugh. “But she was a typical mother — `you can do anything, you can be anything’ – and an amazing role model. She’d been a stay-at-home mom, but then she became a single parent with four children, ages 11 to one, and had to go back to work.
“She went to work in the accounting department at Skelly Oil Company [in Tulsa], and in ’64 or ’65, Skelly offered certain employees the opportunity to take a computer-programming course, to teach them how to use this new thing called the computer. My mother was the only woman who signed up; the rest were men. And the men were all able to spend part of their workdays studying for this thing. Not my mother. She had to do her regular job.
“So they all had to take a test at the end of the course. And my mother made the highest score,” adds Sandy. “She truly blazed a trail for so many women of my generation just by being brave enough to do all of that.”
Later, when Sandy and her pianist-arranger husband, Chuck Gardner, began performing together, Kalita, her mother, “was always front-row center” when the Gardners performed in her vicinity.
“She had a very special person she was in love with,” recalls Sandy. “They were unable to get married, but she totally loved this person, and he loved her. Their song was `Tenderly.’ So I’m definitely doing `Tenderly’ at this concert.”
For her part, Pam remembers her mother’s fondness for George Gershwin compositions, as well as Hoagy Carmichael and Sidney Arodin’s “Up A Lazy River.”
“She taught me a lot of Gershwin songs,” says Pam, “and she played `Up A Lazy River’ until she couldn’t play anymore. So I’ll do that and a couple of Gershwins –`Summertime,’ which was one of her favorites, and `Our Love Is Here to Stay.'”
In addition to doing tunes that their own moms loved hearing, Pam says that the two plan to sing some numbers that are favorites of Jazz Depot moms-including Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,’ which is tops with Jeanine Rhea, a tireless volunteer for the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. They’ll be accompanied on the show by Chuck Gardner on piano, Bill Crosby on bass, and Wade Robertson on drums, and in addition to their solo numbers, they plan on sprinkling in a few duets.
“One tune that I’ve wanted Pam and me to do together for a long, long time is `[Stompin’ at the] Savoy,'” says Sandy. “You really don’t hear it as a vocal often, but it’s got some great words [by big-band-era lyricist Andy Razaf]. The problem is, the way it’s written, it’s hard to sing it as a single voice. When you sing the word `Savoy,’ it kind of holds, and another line starts. That’s why we thought it would make a great duet.”
The pair will combine their voices on other tunes, too, but Sandy’s cagey about the details.
“We have some real fun stuff planned for this little event,” she says. “We’ve got one duet that’s just going to be a hoot, but I can’t give it away. So it’ll have to be a surprise.”
Sandy Gardner and Pam Van Dyke Crosby’s Mother’s Day concert is set to begin at 5p.m. Sunday, May 12, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-1008. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.
The event is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Spring Concert Series.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.