Thursday, November 29, 2012

True grit....and beautiful to boot!

"All I ever intended was to make a living at what I do. 
Everything I've achieved since then has been above and beyond." -Shania Twain

Earlier this year I read her very honest and poignant memoir, "From This Moment On", (2011). Like many, until reading this book I thought Shania was just a pretty performer whose management team had publicized her past childhood struggles to help promote her as a country singer/songwriter. I was wrong. I think her book is a must read for anyone pursuing or wanting to pursue a career as a performer or songwriter.  First, because she shows you by example that anyone can rise far above their past and troubled childhoods. Second, because she gives you an inside look into the life of an international touring's a lot of work, exciting, but a huge undertaking. In her case it burned her and her voice out for years afterwards. There is good news though.....
She is back!....Shania Twain starts her two year musical residency here in Las Vegas this Saturday, 12-01-12, at Caesars Palace. Can't wait to see her show! I actually owe her a thank you...

It is inadvertently due to Shania Twain that I had one of my first memorable moments working in entertainment. It was on stage at the MGM Grand Arena, for "Vh1 Divas", about ten years ago. For the final dress rehearsal, just before the show, all the "Divas" were gathered for a medley of Stevie Wonder hits with the man himself.  Everyone was there, Queen Latifah, Ashanti, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Jewel....and me. "Me" was supposed to be Shania Twain but her helicopter  landing was delayed. So, I sang her part in the medley which was a shortened version of "Superstition" sung as a duo with Stevie Wonder.  This was the first time I was asked to sing as a stand in. I remember coming out on stage just after Queen Latifah did her bit and my heart was pounding in my ears! I waited....sang the first few words with Stevie, and heard nothing. I looked to my right for some sign from him but of course didn't get anything as he was playing keyboard and doing his thing. Then my voice came back to me, amplified over a sound system beyond anything I'd ever heard I just kept singing and tried not to let it throw me off. Now I am used to that sound delay but I wasn't then. In any case, Shania arrived in time for the show and I did then as I have many times since, I handed her the microphone.

So, thanks Shania, for giving this Hollywood Underdog my first chance to perform with a legend, and for having the courage to share your very personal and private life story in your book. Welcome back to the stage....we missed you!

Shania Twain, "Still The One", Starts 12-01-12
The Coliseum, Ceasars Palace 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Putting the Metal to the Kettle!

It's that time of year again.....we all walk by those cheerful Salvation Army red kettle bell ringers when out shopping or running errands.  

Sometimes we drop in a buck or two or some coins. When we can't we might feel a little guilty, even sheepishly avoid that entrance....but we don't have to do that. The bell ringers know we can't all donate to every kettle we see. Remember though that with 311 million of us in this country, no donation is too small. Every coin really does add up!

My first experience with The Salvation Army was with their thrift stores. At age 18 I'd moved away from my parent's house and small town to a suburb, with a job, an apartment with my sisters, and a few personal items in which to start my adult life. When I started working in downtown Minneapolis, I quickly realized that a high school wardrobe and $6 per hour didn't go nearly as far as I'd imagined!

So, thank you to all those ladies back then who donated their gently worn upscale clothes to The Salvation Army thrift stores, so that I could afford to look respectable those first few years in the "real" world. Ever since then I have made sure to donate nice clothes and household items regularly to The Salvation Army to pay it back.

Back to the red kettles. Many wonder, where do the kettle donations actually go? Also, what does The Salvation Army actually do?

The Salvation Army can be described in two categories, your local Salvation Army, and The Salvation Army International.

Photo Courtesy of The Salvation Army International

Into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means

....The Salvation Army International

Before I proceed, here is a quick fact for those who don't know. The Salvation Army is categorically a Christian organization. However, services are certainly not limited to members of this faith.

Starting with your local Salvation Army, below are the most common services being provided to people in need:

The Salvation Army local organizations

Thrift Stores

Adult Day Care

Adult Rehabilitation

After School SAY Club  

Family Services

Homeless Services

Emergency Disaster Services

The "Lied" Vocational Training Program
S.E.E.D.S of Hope Program 

The Salvation Army International

Health Services

Community Development

Dependence/Addiction counseling

Emergency Response

Social Work

Family Tracing

Sports Ministry

For information on your local Salvation Army, available resources, employment opportunities or how to volunteer, just google "The Salvation Army" and your city or state.

Just click on the link below or to the icon on the right side of my blog page to donate to my Salvation Army online red kettle. For online donations they require a $5.00 minimum.

The Salvation Army International Website

For my fellow Nevadans:

The Salvation Army Southern Nevada Website 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wander Jonny's World

Sometimes a singer can reach right into your soul with the first few lines of a song. 
For me, this is Jonny Lang...
I know it can be hard sometimes to put one foot in front of the other. Just to wake up and face the day. It ain't easy all the time......

Jonny Lang, courtesy of
The first time I saw him play, back in 96' he was only 16, but fronted his own blues band...Kid Jonny Lang and The Big Bang. Word was out in the Twin Cities that you had to see this kid now because he was really "going places". This was after being discovered when he took guitar lessons at age 12 from a local blues musician in his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. 

I just saw him again (finally) a couple of weeks ago....16 years later. Every time he's here in Vegas I plan to see him....and for some reason or another never do. This time I was determined. So I made arrangements. But when the evening finally came I was worried about my mother, who was in the hospital. More information wouldn't be coming to me until the next morning. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep and hoped he might soothe my soul so I decided to go anyway.

Sitting there in the dark at the Ovation Lounge, with the purple and blue lights above and Jonny's God given talent cursing through him, reaching out to all of us, was just what I needed. It brought me some peace and a compassionate companion to my worry. My husband said to me afterwards, "we need to see him every time he plays here"......he's got that right. I have been lucky enough to watch and work with, in rehearsals, some of the top performers in the business. I can tell you, Jonny is among the best there is.

Wander This World......Acoustic version....Jonny Lang

Jonny Lang reminds me of Bob Dylan in the way he lives. A quiet artist, shy when not on stage. He charts his own course....only 31 years old and already a 15 year veteran of the music business. He has been married for 11 years to Haylie Johnson. They have three children.

His combination of blues, rock and gospel, all work alone or in combination. Jonny sometimes plays with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and Sting. He has also performed on the "Jimi Hendrix Experience" compilation, as his gifted ways with a blues guitar grow richer and more extraordinary over time.

"Quitter Never Wins" Jonny Lang....Courtesy of and DIRECT TV

Back in 96' he was known as "Kid Jonny Lang"
Photo courtesy 

One of his early soulful hits. He was 17.
Breakin' Me 

His story...
Jonny Lang started playing the guitar at the age of twelve, after his father took him to see the Bad Medicine Blues Band, one of the few blues bands in Fargo, North Dakota. Lang soon started taking guitar lessons from Ted Larsen, the Bad Medicine Blues Band's guitar player. Several months after Lang began, he joined the Bad Medicine Blues Band, which was then renamed Kid Jonny Lang & The Big Bang. 
The band moved to Minneapolis and independently released the album Smokin' when Lang was fourteen. Lang was signed to A&M Records in 1996. He released the critically acclaimed multi-platinum Lie to Me in 1997. The next album, Wander this World was released in 1998 and earned a Grammy nomination. This was followed by the more soulful Long Time Coming in 2003. Lang's album, the gospel influenced Turn Around, released in 2006 won him his first Grammy Award.
In more than ten years on the road, Lang has toured with the Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck and Sting. 

The above is an excerpt from

Jonny Lang's current band includes:
  • Barry Alexander from Minneapolis, MN on drums
  • James Anton from Minneapolis, MN on bass
  • Akil Thompson from Nashville, TN on guitar
  • Dwan Hill from Nashville, TN on keys
  • Missi Hale from Los Angeles, CA on background vocals

Note from me

Thank you Jonny Lang (and Dave Ramsey) for writing the gospel song "That Great Day". It was played at my mother's memorial service last week.

Note to readers:

Next time you're in Las Vegas I highly recommend for real music, a true "artists" lounge....

Ovation Lounge.....Las Vegas....Music, up close and personal 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The sun on the wing of an airplane

As we took off from the airport I felt such a sense of loss.

Not just from my mother passing away, but from the comfort of family I was leaving behind.

I knew going home and back to work was the right thing for me, but it was still difficult. In addition this was the first time leaving Minnesota knowing that I wouldn't ever be able to come back and see her again.

As we lifted off I just let my tears flow and stared out the window. Very quickly we were above the clouds. I noticed they were like a perfect blanket. Not a gap anywhere. The sky was beyond blue above them.....the sun was shining. After awhile I felt that this must be what heaven looks like.

I put my hand on the window and it was so warm from the sun that I then put my forehead right up against it. My face was instantly warmed. I felt so comforted when I did this that it made me cry even more but not just in grief. I also felt such a sense of peace in that moment. When I opened my eyes I smiled because the sun was reflecting brightly on the wing......right in front of me.


I have flown many many times. Only once do I remember seeing anything so beautiful. It was Mount Rainier, in perfect view on a flight to Washington state. In this moment the sun reflecting on the silver wing of an airplane, to me, was even more so.