Stevenson presents Peggy Lee concert tomorrow in EllendaleAnyone who has been in Jamestown for a few years knows Katherine Stevenson, a foreign language professor and head of that department at Jamestown College. The vivacious little blonde singer and composer does an amazing interpretation of a famous native daughter, Peggy Lee — a Jamestown native whose stint in Hollywood made her a household name.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
Anyone who has been in Jamestown for a few years knows Katherine Stevenson, a foreign language professor and head of that department at Jamestown College. The vivacious little blonde singer and composer does an amazing interpretation of a famous native daughter, Peggy Lee — a Jamestown native whose stint in Hollywood made her a household name.
Her versions of “I’m a Woman,” “Fever” and “Big Spender” sent her voice and image into orbit. She was one of the voices that sang along with the Benny Goodman Band and crooners such as Bing Crosby helped to make stars of female vocalists like Doris Day, Jo Stafford, Kay Starr, Dinah Shore and Jamestown’s own Lee.
The Big Band Era included the 1930s and continued through the second World War, when the women whose faces and forms blazed the tail-ends of fighter planes, and their voices (heard on 78 rpm records and radio stations) soothed many a soldier’s pains as he longed for home back in the United States. The ladies of the era were as much mascots and “lucky charms” as they were wives, lovers and muses. The songs were sensuous and their singers’ forms curvaceous. It was the golden age of Hollywood, the big bands and crooners like Frank Sinatra. Lee’s heyday came in on the heels of Prohibition and the Great Depression.
America was hungry for beauty and elegance. Lee served the USA a full meal. She was everything desirable for entertainment: she could sing, dance and act — and she was drop-dead gorgeous. She graduated from Wimbledon High School in 1937 and in four years was singing with the Benny Goodman Band in Chicago.
That lusty sound of Lee was well-known as an incentive for “just one more day, one more hour, one more moment” along the front lines for the military coming back home from World War II. Her soothing and loving voice brought them home to wives, families and sweethearts. It’s that deep, magnetic sound that Lee re-enactors seek to recreate.
Stevenson has been connected with Peggy Lee Associates, LLC since the star and her family established it. Lee, then 79, received an honorary Ph.D. from Jamestown College in 2000 and passed away two years later, while living in Bel Air, Calif., at the age of 81.
Stevenson played an important part in organizing the Jamestown component of each visit and functioned as JC’s liaison with the star. Lee’s songs echo the times and Stevenson does them justice. Stevenson has been doing tributes in and around Jamestown for more than a decade.
During this week, Ellendale has been marking Peggy Lee’s 92nd birthday. Wimbledon and Jamestown will have celebrations during the actual birthday weekend of May 25 and 26 respectively.
Stevenson’s portrayal during the Ellendale tribute will be in the Ellendale Opera House tomorrow at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. The Opera House is located at 55 Main Street in Ellendale. These tributes help spread recognition of this famous Jamestown native so the generations to come will remember Miss Peggy Lee.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.