Greater Tulsa Reporter
GTR Newspapers photo
Cindy Cain, a nationally-known local Jazz and Blues singer, remembers where she got her love of the indigenous American music.
“I got hooked on jazz music as a child by listening to a two LP record set of jazz and blues of my mothers from the 1920s and 1930s. I love the lyrics of jazz standards and the emotional release of the blues,” she says.
Cain says she started not as a musician, but as a journalist. A Pryor native, she was employed by the Muskogee Phoenix. “I worked as a reporter my first job out of college and loved feature writing. However, I decided after putting in three years, I wasn’t interested in going to accident scenes and talking to people who had lost a child or had been indicted.”
It wasn’t until she served in the U.S. Peace Corps in 1988 that her singing career was launched.
“I was an English teacher in Cameroon for two years and toward the end, I began singing with a Cameroonian band at Le Papillon, near the Marine Corps barracks.” Her first singing demo was recorded with a Cameroonian performer, also from Le Papillon.
Cain says her biggest musical inspirations are those who tell great stories in their songs or make great melodies. “My song ideas frequently come from nuggets of experience in my own life, but not always.”
Cain says that she learned the most for her life’s work of music through her service in the Peace Corps. “People are really more alike than you think. Parents want to take care of their children and children want to have a chance to grow up. During my time there, I learned I can live without a lot of things we take for granted like running water and a telephone. The first telephone in the village I stayed in was installed a year after I left in 1990. I can say I am proud to be an American.”
Cain reminisces about her collaborations: “My first CD features a duet with Gaye Adegbalola, who has made quite a mark on the blues scene with her band mates in Saffire, The Uppity Blues Women. The duet is ‘Something’s Got a Hold on Me.’”
She has sat in with Bob Margolin, who collaborated with Muddy Waters at the end of Muddy’s career. “I met Bob at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia, and we’ve talked since the mid-1990s, and he has called me to sing. He wrote the liner notes on my first CD, “Love Contest,” available now on www.Amazon.com.
Cain has also spent six years as the press secretary to Rep. Dave McCurdy in Washington, D.C. “I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything,” she says.
“Politics gets a bad reputation sometimes, but most elected officials work hard for their constituents.
“Both the Peace Corps and politics launched my music career. While I performed on ‘The Hill,’ Congressman Mike Synar hired my band, C.C. & the Rhythm Toys for his annual barbeque fundraiser,” she recalls happily.
During her time in Washington, she performed for venues such as the Blues Alley, D.C.’s most popular jazz site, the Kennedy Center, and smaller venues like Twist & Shout and Madam’s Organ. She also opened for such acts such as Al Franken, Maria Muldaur and the late Danny Gatton.
Cain has been involved in a variety of groups that she helped manage and lead. Most notable are the Hot Tomatos, which included Cain, Mary Shaver and Janine Wilson.
After relocating to Tulsa in 2001, she has maintained an active schedule with performances at various venues such as the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, the Tulsa International Mayfest, the Bowery, the Velvet Room, the Bourbon Street Café and the Lanna Thai restaurant.
She has taken part in several shows at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center as well. In 2004, she participated in the SummerStage program that included her sold-out show, “Something Cool,” and in 2005, she starred in “Live and Swingin’ at the Casbar Lounge,” where she and Max Wisley did a cover of Louis Prima and Keely Smith.
Her television appearances include Washington D.C.’s FOX Ch. 5, KOTV’s “Six in the Morning,” KJRH’s “Midday News” as well as independent shows such as “Inside the Blues” and “The Music Shop.”
She also appeared in this year’s OKBlues Festival. She says, “I got involved in the event by sending Matt Alcott a promo kit and we were added to the line-up.”
Cain’s band will be opening for the Mid-Life Crisis Band at the 4th of July festivities at Tulsa’s Veteran’s Park from 6-7 p.m. She will also be a featured singer in Divas for the H.O.P.E. benefit concert.
She is working on her latest CD, which she describes as “One-hundred per cent me. I’ve found my voice as a singer and songwriter and look forward to sharing my talent rather than simply covering the material of others.”
She says the CD is a combination of country, blues and twang rock. The release date is tentatively held for August or September.