Jul 16, 2014 - Cindy Cain Brings the Summertime Blues





           Cindy Cain has dubbed her new show Summertime Blues, but it could just as easily be called Back to My Roots. The starting point for the concert, she says, was an album she discovered in her mother's collection many years ago.

           “It was a double album, an LP of the blues, and `Downhearted Blues” was the song on it that resonated the most with me,” she remembers. “I mean, that song would probably resonate with any angst-filled teenager, wouldn't it?”

           That old Alberta Hunter composition, recorded by such blues legends as Bessie Smith and B.B. King over the years, set Cain on a musical path that led out of her home town of Pryor to, ultimately,  gigs in the African country of Cameroon and then in the Washington, D.C. area. Hearing the album also opened her eyes to the pervasiveness of blues music in the rock 'n' roll she and her friends were listening to at the time.

           “There was no way,” she says, “to get around the fact that everyone from Foghat to Molly Hatchet to J. Geils was founded in the blues.” 

           Cain's definition of blues music, she adds, is “expansive.”

           “For me, blues is more than a certain number of measures and a certain pattern. It's emotion. It's sad. It's flirtatious. It's a lot of things.”

           Although Cain sang in high school – “I was the talent at the Pryor junior-senior banquet,” she notes with a laugh – her material tended to come from the likes of Carole King and Olivia Newton-John.  It wasn't until the late '80s, when she was in Cameroon working as a Peace Corps volunteer, that she started performing blues songs. A job as press secretary for Oklahoma Congressman Dave McCurdy then took her to D.C., where she formed the blues-based group C.C. and the Rhythm Toys, playing regularly around the northern Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. area.

           “For years, I did nothing but blues,” she says. “Then, when the great voter revolt of '94 happened and I started doing music full-time, I had to diversify, and I started booking myself as `swinging blues and jazz,' so I could hold down steady jazz gigs.

           “When I moved to Tulsa, it seemed like I fell into the jazz pocket more than the blues pocket,” she added. “So what we're really looking at here is a return to my musical roots.”

           Helping her with that journey Sunday is an all-star lineup of musicians, including classic Tulsa Sound saxophonist Johnny Williams, keyboardist Scott McQuade, guitarist Charles Tuberville, bassist Dean Demerritt, and drummer Wade Robertson.

           “For backup vocalists, I have three singers, two of whom are making their Jazz Hall debut,” she says. “Donna Leming is one of the most stalwart music fans Tulsa has ever known. She's known decades and decades of musicians and supported their music and their shows.

           “Jana Warren was really my impetus for even having backup vocalists. She and I used to drive the back country roads of Pryor, singing `Black Water' and `Amazing Grace' at the top of our lungs. I just thought if I was going back to my roots, I should be singing with Jana on the gig. I also thought that because she hasn't sung professionally, she's going to need company so she won't be nervous. So in addition to Jana and Donna, Lisa Hamil will be there. She's Pam Crosby's daughter and she's sung at the Jazz Hall of Fame.”

           The trio, she adds, have been dubbed the Tri-Lites “because they all have a different hair color.”

           Although Cain, the Tri-Lites and the band will not do the Eddie Cochran rocker “Summertime Blues” (“I thought we would, but when I really listened to the lyrics I though, `Nah. That's a guy's song.'”), there will be plenty of blues-rockers in the Summertime Blues show, hearkening back to the material she performed during her years on the D.C. club circuit. Among them are two songs recorded by Texas performer Roy Head in the '60s, “Teeny Weeny Bit” and “Treat Her Right.”

           “Back in the day, I always used to dedicate `Treat Her Right' to Lorena Bobbitt,” Cain said with a chuckle. “I'll do that on Sunday as well.”

            Cindy Cain's Summertime Blues is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 20, 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, 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 a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 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.