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Musical echoes from yesteryear
The Great Pretender returns to Yellowknife

Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Pat Braden and Norm Glowach once missed a chance to accompany some of the most magical music in rock 'n' roll history live on stage. This weekend the lucky musicians are relishing a second shot at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC).

NNSL photo/graphic

Bassist Pat Braden will perform alongside drummer Norm Glowach at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre this weekend. The master musicians are backing The Legendary Platters, a doo-wop group that is paying tribute to the classic 1950s pop genre Friday and Saturday evening. - photo courtesy of Bill Braden

The bassist and drummer are backing The Legendary Platters, a trio of veteran vocalists known for covering smooth and elegant doo-wop harmonies such as Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Twilight Time, You'll Never Know and The Great Pretender.

Even though The Legendary Platters do not include any of the original members from their chart-topping namesake, The Platters, they are all elders of the doo-wop era, said NACC executive director Ben Nind.

"Collectively they have so much experience to offer, not only terms of performance, but also in terms of relating what it means to be a performer," Nind said.

Jimmy Dozier, originally from Virginia, was a member of The Avalons, a rhythm and blues group that recorded a string of singles in the mid 1950s.

Dee Dee Laroque began her career in Detroit's doo-wop scene in the 1950s and went on to sing at concerts staged by the late entertainer, Bob Hope.

Oscar Charles came out of Buffalo, N.Y., singing for various doo-wop acts the 1950s. At the end of the 1960s he hooked up with the late Tony Williams, who gained fame as a drummer for Miles Davis, and drummer Bernard Purdie, who also backed Davis and played on recordings for Aretha Franklin and The Beatles, among many others. Charles formed The Legendary Platters in 1974 after moving to Canada.

"They present not only the songs of the era, but also the atmosphere of the era itself," Nind said. "There is a warmth and an authenticity that they are able to bring that crosses over generations."

Braden and Glowach both said they are looking forward to the rare opportunity of sharing the spotlight with veteran vocalists who have performed professionally for more than half a century.

"This music is timeless," Braden said. "To play it with folks that were around when it was at the top of the popular heap is very exciting."

It's an honour that slipped through Braden's fingers in the mid-1970s. Back then, the professional multi-instrumentalist and recording artist was still just a talented teenage bassist revelling in Yellowknife's vibrant club and dance hall scene.

The Legendary Platters were in town for a concert and rumour had it they were going to drop by The Gallery for an afternoon jam with local musicians.

Young Braden psyched himself up to join them on stage, when he got an order from the elder leader of one of the bands he played with. The poor kid had to split before any Platters arrived so he could help tear down gear left over from his band's gig at another venue the night before.

At that time, Glowach, now a music producer and recording artist, was a promising percussionist at Sir John High School. Glowach also missed the group's visit in the 1970s, but he nonetheless had the privilege of playing their classic Platters covers with local musicians who grew up in the era of the enchanting doo-wop sound.

"Tonight's show is an opportunity for me to play songs that I cut my drumming teeth on," Glowach said.

At age 13, Glowach was the youngest member of Easy Street, a five-piece combo that also included Alex Czarnecki on saxophone and Wilfred Schidlowski on guitar. They played instrumental renditions of Platters songs -- such as Harbour Lights and Red Sails in the Sunset -- at dances in the Elks Club, in the Giant Mine rec hall and at the Legion in the early 1970s.

"When Norm played with us we had to sign him in because he was under age," Schidlowski recalled.

Glowach returned that old favour this week by buying his former band mates tickets to Saturday's show.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Schidlowski.

Local doo-wop singer Kate Tompkins is eagerly anticipating this weekend's performance, as well. She and the rest of her a capella group, The Harmony Sisters, also have tickets for Saturday night's show. The vocalists are working on their own cover of The Platters' hit Only You, to debut at gigs next month.

"All The Platters' songs are classics," said Tompkins. "They have amazing, sensitive harmonies. That was the music that was playing when we were making out in the back seat of the '54 Ford."

The Legendary Platters will transport audiences back in time at 8 p.m. tonight, and again at 8 p.m. on Saturday at NACC.

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