Singer and bandleader Ginger Pauley does not just perform popular music of the flapper and big-band eras, she embodies the style, elegant insouciance and zest of those popular periods. She is, to quote a popular catch-phrase of the times, the “Bee’s Knees.” She brings music of the ’20s and ’40s to her appearance on Thursday, July 26, for Ken Dahleen’s Idyllwild Summer Concert Series.
Yosemite-area native and trained as an actor, Pauley emigrated to the Southern California entertainment scene to develop her career. Not surprisingly, given her flapper flair and looks, Pauley landed a five-year gig playing kittenish cartoon character Betty Boop at Universal Studios in Studio City.
Since, according to many, the character Betty Boop is based on ’20s singer and actress Helen Kane, it seemed natural for Pauley to hang out and sing with the park jazz band, doing many of Kane’s songs. Kane became a pop icon in the ’20s with her teasing renditions of tunes such as “I Wanna Be Loved by You.” At the end of the first lyric, Kane added a word riff that became her signature — “Boop-Boop-a-Doop.”
And as the phrase caught the imagination of the public, it seemed to catch the flirty flavor of the 1920s.
One of the Universal Studios Park jazz band trumpet players, Corey Gemme, mentioned to Pauley that he had a friend with a ’20s and ’40s big band that needed a singer. Without even an audition, just on Gemme’s recommendation, Pauley found herself on a plane to a jazz festival in Spokane, Washington, with musicians she had never met. “The first time the guys heard me sing was on stage,” said Pauley, of the start of what would become her signature style as a singer. The band embraced her. “They weren’t just great musicians, they were great people,” said Pauley, of the Spokane festival. “I still use those guys.”
In 2009, during the economic downturn, it became harder to fund transportation for big bands, and gigs became fewer. Pauley, who had transitioned from actor to big-band singer, made another transition. “I thought we could do the same music but with a smaller, five-piece band,” remembered Pauley. Girl singer Pauley became bandleader Pauley with the formation of Ginger and Her Hoosier Daddys.
And just as the previous big band had played danceable tunes of the ’20s and ’40s, so did Pauley with her smaller ensemble. “We can jump from a five- to nine-piece band depending on the gig,” said Pauley, happily in command of her merry band.
Her ’40s tune roster includes honeyed standards, “Blue Skies,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and “It Had to Be You.” “We sometimes play some tunes from the ’50s and some Mardi Gras favorites to show our versatility,” said Pauley.
Joining her for her Idyllwild gig are Gemme on trumpet and trombone, Chris Dierl on sax and clarinet, Paul Kosmala on piano, Bobby Barron on bass and Michael Velasquez on bass.
Pauley is the host, co-producer and music supervisor of her own show “Vintage America With Ginger.” The first episode can be found on YouTube and the other episodes with be airing soon on the Internet. “It’s a very uplifting show about vintage America — what it was and what it is today,” said Pauley. The show won an award for Best New Series for the Indie Series Awards, an international awards show for web series.
This is Pauley’s first Idyllwild appearance. The music she and her Hoosier Daddys will be playing will “take you back.”
“I do this music because I love the history of it and like playing it to educate new audiences about those periods, especially young kids,” said Pauley. “I do it to keep this music alive and to hear comments, as we often do: ‘Oh my gosh, that really took me back.’”
Ginger and Her Hoosier Daddys take the stage at 7 p.m. Popular local singer Sandii Castleberry opens at 6:15 p.m., below the Idyllwild Brewpub.
There is no charge for admission. Donations are always appreciated since Dahleen books and contracts acts for the series with insufficient cash on hand to fund the series.