Today from my WRCO radio archives we share with you two portions of a 2010 interview I did with Gretchen Christopher.
She was a leap year baby born February 29th of 1940. Her high school singing group, the Fleetwoods, had two number one hits in 1959, the year of her graduation.
Gary Troxel, Barbara Ellis, and Gretchen Christopher found fame with Come Softly To Me, which was number one for four weeks in Billboard during the Spring of 1959.
We FLEETWOODS debuted on the national charts in 1959 and were the first group in the world to have multiple #1 Hits top THE BILLBOARD HOT 100 in a single year (1959: "Come Softly To Me" and "Mr. Blue"). While that is a record we will always hold (it's so nice to be the first), it was exceeded in 1964, when the SUPREMES had three #1 Hits and the BEATLES had an incredible six! Nice company to be succeeded by! (:o)
We FLEETWOODS had 11 Hit Singles on THE BILLBOARD HOT 100, our last Top 40 Hit being "Goodnight, My Love" in 1963 (an appropriate farewell, on the eve of the British Invasion). Five decades later, I made my solo artist recording debut in 2007, when release of GRETCHEN'S SWEET SIXTEEN (SUITE 16) was launched in Las Vegas at the 2ND ANNUAL COOL BOBBY B DOO WOP CONVENTION & GRAND FINALE CONCERT, headlined by THE FLEETWOODS starring GRETCHEN CHRISTOPHER. Immediately after the concert, I returned to Olympia, WA, to take over management of my mother's hospice care.
Three and a half years earlier, when I'd made the commitment and begun recording the CD for my 16th Leap Year Birthday, Mom was told she had only days, weeks or months to live! This was devastating, and I said, "Don't die, just because they tell you you're going to!" Family flew in from California, and we met with the doctor, who recommended we arrange for hospice care immediately (meaning Mom was expected to live less than six months). Torn between spending even more time with Mom or working relentlessly to get SUITE 16 finished within her lifetime, I did both, and sleep went by the wayside.
Happily, Mom defied the odds and lived not only to celebrate her 95th birthday, but her 96th, 97th and 98th, each a grand celebration. My brother, who'd been managing Mom's caregivers (hiring, firing, payroll, shopping, household) for these 3 1/2 years, needed relief, and I committed to take over all these duties, including scheduling myself for 24 hours caregiving each week. Work on promoting the album went by the wayside, but, happily, Mom and I were together when we learned that BILLBOARD'S FRED BRONSON had named GRETCHEN'S SWEET SIXTEEN (SUITE 16) among the 2007 BILLBOARD CRITICS' PICKS for 10 BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR! Oh, what a blessing, after working so hard to conceive, write, record and produce the concept album of 16 self-penned songs and a 16 page booklet of liner notes and photos (previously unpublished, except for THE CASHBOX cover photo of THE FLEETWOODS and our co-producers, Dolton Records' BOB REISDORFF and BONNIE GUITAR).
Mom and family and friends celebrated her 99th birthday with a dinner party on my deck overlooking the bay. Two months later, she took her final leave. July 30, 2009, family came from four states and traveled across the Cascade Mountains to celebrate Mom's 100th birthday, fulfilling her final wishes by scattering her ashes in her hometown, Wilbur, WA, and dedicating a memory stone next to those of her distinguished twin brother and parents (please see www.TheFleetwoods.com/tributes.htm_Helen_Gray_Christopher ).
Now, it is a new year, and I've resumed singing, first at the concert celebrating our Fleetwoods' induction into the VOCAL GROUP HALL OF FAME, November 2008, and last week, my solo concert at Olympia's ARTS WALK on Saturday and Seattle's HARD ROCK CAFE on Friday, wonderfully accompanied by GRETCHEN CHRISTOPHER & THE FLEETWOODS' SHOW BAND, performing songs from SUITE 16 and my special lyrics honoring STEPPENWOLF keyboard player GOLDY McJOHN on his 65th birthday: HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GOLDY.
Thank you, Kent, for having given mention to GRETCHEN'S SWEET SIXTEEN on my birthday. For those interested, SOUND CLIPS may be heard and CDs SIGNED to order, at www.GoldCupMusic.com
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