25 YEARS. That’s a long time to even remain FRIENDS, let alone band mates, but…here we are. It was in the summer of 1988 that Sal Bruno, our fabulous sax man, suggested that we three girls learn a few Andrews Sisters tunes to perform at the Camp Stoneman Reunion Day stage door canteen show, for which he was the talent coordinator. Camp Stoneman, which closed its doors for good in 1958, was an active military camp in Pittsburg, CA during WWII. A few of us actually have ties to it, in the form of parents who worked there or traveled through on the way to their war destinations; Sal and Jimmy were actually BORN in the Camp hospital! Little did we know that, after having hunted through war surplus stores for pseudo-military WAC uniforms, and doing our little “one time” stint as “The Andrews Sisters”, aka “Vocal-Ease and the Fly Boys”, that we’d fall so much in love with the music of the ‘40s, we’d be performing it for another twenty years?!
Julie, Betsy, Carol, Sal, and Jimmy all met as children, singing and playing guitar for the Good Shepherd Folk Choir in Pittsburg. The Choir was also where we three girls “clicked” as a trio, arranging many church songs in harmony to suit our three voices. Ned, who is the only original “Fly Boy/Boogie Man” still working with us today, played in high school bands with Sal. Several good friends and talented musicians added much to the group over the years, including Jimmy and Peter Riso, Cyril Eshabarr, Lou Esposito, Martin Johnson, Larry Widener, and Nick Woodson on drums; Mark Lavezzo, Brian Leber and Jim Matejcek on guitar; and Alan Revelo and Erwin Balsa on piano and synthesizer. We have performed close to home in East Contra Costa County, and as far away as San Francisco and Monterey, and throughout the Greater Bay Area. We’ve played in sweltering heat, rain, wind, and snow; at fancy hotels, in parks, and at biker bars.
Learning to sing ANYTHING by the Andrews Sisters proved daunting at first, but we did it, spending hours with our heads cocked over record and tape players, listening and listening to the old albums we’d found in our parents’ stashes and dug up at local record shops! When people mention that we make it sound “easy”…well, that’s just about the best compliment we could receive! We also appreciate when people tell us that we “sound just like the Andrews Sisters!” Well, who ever COULD besides Patty, Maxine, and Laverne? We keep those three ladies on their pedestals, exactly where they belong. The Boogie Men are our little Big Band. They provide us solid support and their musical versatility on multiple instruments and vocals enhances every performance. It’s been an amazing joy to play this music over the last 25 years. It’s been nothing if not an incredible and sentimental journey.
In 2008, after performing for more than 20 years, we decided to record our first CD, entitled "Side By Side", to celebrate our anniversary. Side By Side is a collection of music from the 1940s, featuring the harmonies of the great 1940s big band vocal ensembles, including the Andrews Sisters, the McGuire Sisters, the Ames Bros., and the Modernaires.
Sadly, in 2010, we lost our lifelong friend and long time guitarist Jimmy Matejcek to cancer. Jim loved life and treasured his family, friends and his music. Even through illness, he maintained that life is good. In 2012, we began a new recording project to honor Jim's legacy. The newly released CD, "Life is Good!" was produced in remembrance of Jim and features a collection of tunes from the 1950's and 1960's. There's a reason why, if you're cruising or shopping, or enjoying some type of festival or street fair, you'll probably hear several of these songs. It’s because they are catchy and memorable, humorous and dramatic, and have nostalgic appeal to many. Wonderful songs from the ‘50s/’60s era are so bountiful that it was difficult to choose what to include in this compilation. Please enjoy our "twist" on some of our favorite rock classics, and remember, Life is Good!
Vocal-ease is Julie DiMaggio Enea, Betsy Kohler, and Carol Zbacnik. The Boogie Men are Sal (Tudi) Bruno on sax, keys and vocals; Ned (Goofy) Canepa on bass and trumpet; Bill (Superman) Rodrigues on guitar and vocals; and Nick (Nickferd) Woodson on drums.
A big THANK YOU goes to our family and friends who have been with us and supported us over many years of rehearsals and concerts, and to the new friends we have met along the way. Your appreciation for what we do is what sustains us year after year and makes it all worthwhile!