Jul 21, 2013 - Cindy Cain and Pam Van Dyke Crosby Bring Two of a Kind to Jazz Depot

             It’s been just about a decade since Pam Van Dyke Crosby and Cindy Cain first began singing duets in public, when, for their debut, they fronted a band called Strawberry Blonde and the Swizzle Sticks.

            “I was Strawberry, she was Blonde,” remembers Crosby with a laugh.

            But the relationship between the two high-profile Tulsa vocalists goes back much further than that. It was in the late 1970s that Oklahoman Crosby, who’d spent some four years on the road singing with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra before returning to her native state to raise her children, met up with a college-age Cain.

            “Her mom and dad used to come down to the La Louisiane restaurant, where I worked for three and a half years, and her mom told me about her,” Crosby recalls. “She was maybe 18 or 19 at the time. We met, and I gave her some voice lessons. Then, she left town and went to OSU and the Peace Corps and then to Washington, D.C.”

            During that time, Cain had been putting the lessons she’d received from Crosby to good use, first singing professionally – more or less – in 1988, during a stint with the Corps in Cameroon.

            “I wasn’t allowed to get paid for singing while I was in the Peace Corps, but there was a restaurant there that gave me food and drinks for singing twice a week with a Cameroonian band,” Cain remembers. “We’d do everything from `The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ to ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ to `The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’”

            After moving to Washington, D.C., she put together a group called C.C. and the Rhythm Toys, spending much of the next decade playing the jazz and blues circuits around the D.C. area.

            Then, she returned to Tulsa, and one day she went to a show at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.

            “Pam, who’d been in a horrible car accident, was there,” says Cain. “She was sitting in a wheelchair with both legs broken, and I went up to her and said, `You won’t remember me, but I took voice lessons from you.’”

            Crosby did remember, and, she says, “I just started becoming a friend – now that she was all grown up, you know. She’d been doing jazz and blues in D.C., and so I was anxious to get her doing stuff here. I thought it would be fun for us to do some duets, so that’s what we came up with.”

            “That” was Strawberry Blonde and the Swizzle Sticks, an act that debuted around 2004 with a show at the Tulsa venue Baxter’s, under the auspices of the Tulsa Jazz Society. The show went over well, and the two became frequent musical partners, helping found Sweet & Hot Productions, which united them with other performers in a series of productions for the Jazz Hall as well as the Tulsa Performing Arts Center’s SummerStage festival.

            Sunday’s show will present, in song and sketch, some of the details of their first and second meetings and the professional and personal relationship that resulted. According to Crosby, “It’s a little bit of a play, with music involved. I do a little bit as if I was at La Louisiane, and she comes up and meets me and we do a little skit business with a singing lesson. Then, we go back to the future. First we go back in time, and then, at the end of the first act, we come back to the future, to our time. The second act is cabaret, with special numbers and jokes – mostly musician jokes.”

            The repertoire for the show runs the gamut from rock-era tunes like “Blue Bayou” and “I Feel the Earth Move” to jazz and pop standards (“Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “What Is This Thing Called Love”).

            “We will,” promises Crosby, “have a lot of duets.”

            Scheduled band members include Scott McQuade on piano, Bill Crosby on bass, and Wade Robertson on drums.

            Two of A Kind is set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 East First Street.  Tickets can be purchased at The Depot or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15.00, reserved table seating $20.00. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10.00, and high school and junior high students for  only $5.00.

            The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s Summer 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.