Donna Geddes is having her Cinderella moment. But it’s been a lifetime in the making as she releases her debut CD Speakeasy. “It’s like being Cinderella in the corner and then your fairy Godmother taps you on the shoulder and tells you ‘It’s your turn to go to the ball,’” says Donna. “I’m just in awe!”
Speakeasy is “bluesy, old school jazz with a modern attitude,” she says. “My heart has always been in this kind of music. It’s what really grooves for me.”
Key session players, including brothers whose uncle “Guitar Boogie” Smith co-wrote the bluegrass hit Dueling Banjos, complement Donna’s smooth, solid vocals, Speakeasy features “all veteran Nashville sidemen,” says Donna. “Very much in demand. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
•Bobby Ogdin -- legendary session player on keyboards
•Dennis Solee -- sets the tone on sax and clarinet
•Tony Creasman & Bob Mater -- share drumming duties
•Tim Smith -- bass guitarist and co-producer
•Roddy Smith -- guitar, the brothers are members of Boots Randolph’s band
•Barry Crompton -- acoustic guitar, songwriter and producer
•Billy Contrerras -- soulful fiddle player
•Jimmy Dulin -- quick-fingered engineer
•Deb Thomas -- outstanding backup vocals, harmony
And like the fairytale, the road traveled for Donna has had its ups and downs. Donna’s visions of recording began when she was a child growing up on her grandparents’ farm in Brandenburg, KY, singing the show tunes of Billie Holiday, Judy Garland and Julie Andrews. She honed her talent working the festival circuit and local venues in Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, and Arizona.
Donna remembers being a young, single mother of three, “I didn’t have any money. I was staying up two nights a week to do my studies when the kids were asleep. I had to practice my music in the evening and my neighbor would ring my phone if it got more than one minute past nine.
“I had always wanted to get a guitar but I could never find one I liked the sound of that I actually could afford,” Donna, who formed her own country-rock band Iron Rose during the 80s, recalls. “Then one day, I was in the music shop and they got this new line of guitars – Honers – you know, the harmonica folks. well, it was just the best sounding thing.” And Donna was off to the ball.
But life had other plans for Donna; while nursing vocal nodules, which kept her from singing for two years, Donna remained creative by working with a local filmmaker and that led to working on the film Next of Kin. Headlined by
Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze and, then, unknowns, Helen Hunt, Liam Neeson, Bill Paxton and Ben Stiller, “I was more excited about meeting Jean Ritchie who is legendary among folk musicians,” remembers Donna. “Can you believe I actually turned Patrick down when he asked me to dance? It was so unexpected I just said ‘no!’” Just like Cinderella at the big dance.
She did, however, finally cut a rug with Patrick, ironically to I Had The Time of My Life. And, at a late night party on the set, Donna found her voice again. “The best thing that came out of working on the film was I discovered I could sing again. My voice was different, and it was raspy, but it was there.”
And thus were the beginnings of Speakeasy, going from fairytale to reality.