Mike Cameron’s approach to Sunday’s Tribute to Patti Page comes from a couple of different places. First, he’s toured and performed with the musical play Flipside: The Patti Page Story for more than a year. Second, he’s learned from his Wednesday night shows at Tulsa’s Cellar Dweller that people enjoy knowing a little bit of information about the songs they’re hearing.
“Hearing something about the writers, the inspiration for the tune, when it was written, any stories behind it – that engages the audience,” says the saxophonist. “I’ve been doing that at the Cellar Dweller, and that’s what I’m going to do in the Patti Page show as well. Because I’ve been in the production, I’ve gotten a real understanding of Patti Page, her life and her attitude and her desire to maintain her own identity with a manager who wanted her to be something else. She really yearned to retain her personal touch in these tunes, to keep her own voice.”
Page, who died at the age of 85 on New Year’s Day, 2013, was not only a huge pop-music star in the‘50s and ‘60s; she also has strong ties to the Tulsa area. Born Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore and raised in west Tulsa, where she graduated from Webster High School in 1946, she was dubbed Patti Page while working at Tulsa’s KTUL radio on a show sponsored by the Page Milk Company. Her first recordings, in the mid-1940s, were done with the western-swing group Al Clauser and His Oklahoma Outlaws at the KTUL studios.
By 1947, she had signed with Mercury Records. That year, the label released her single “Confess,” generally acknowledged as the first record in which an artist also overdubbed all of his or her harmony vocals.
Page would go on to become the top-selling female recording artist of the 1950s, not only on the strength of one of the first great pop-country crossover songs, “Tennessee Waltz,” but also because of such major hits as “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” “Old Cape Cod,” “Allegheny Moon,” and “(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window.”
In the mid-’60s, she hit the Top Ten again with her vocal version of a movie theme, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” A television and movie presence as well, Page died only a few weeks before she was scheduled to receive a Grammy for lifetime achievement.
The musical play about her life, Flipside, was conceived and written by Greg White, a professor of musical theater at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. Cameron, who’s a graduate student at the same institution, was invited to participate in the production.
“It’s made up of all UCO people, students and alumni,” he says. “ I played saxophone, flute, and clarinet in it. We did a bunch of shows all over Oklahoma, and then, a month and a half ago, we had the opportunity to take it to an off-Broadway theater in New York, under Greg White’s direction. We did about 17 shows there; I guess we’ve done around 30 or 35 shows.”
Last year, Flipside won several major awards at the Kennedy Center National Theatre Festival, including outstanding musical, outstanding director of a musical, and outstanding performance by an actress.
Cameron plans to bring another Flipside performer, guitarist Grant Goldstein, in from OKC, and to complement these artists with several well-known performers from the Tulsa area: vocalists Annie Ellicott, Pam Van Dyke Crosby, bassist Jordan Hehl, and drummer Jared Johnson, who plays in the Cellar Dweller trio with Cameron and pianist Scott McQuade.
“We’ll have some swing numbers, a couple of western-swing numbers, like `Detour,’ and some nice songs from the Great American Songbook,” says Cameron of the Sunday’s show. “It’ll probably be a little bit on the jazzy side, but we’ll get to the country songs, too. Jared loves playing country tunes, and I’ll put on my best Boots Randolph.”
A Tribute to Patti Page is set to begin Sunday at 5:00 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 East First Street. Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Depot or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. 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.
Refreshments will be available for purchase. The show is part of the Jazz Hall’s 2012-2013 Winter 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.