Posts Tagged ‘Herb Jeffries’

Casey Abram’s Expanding Fan Base

January 15, 2012

Casey banner by Idyllwild artist Marcia E. Gawecki

“Is your most famous celebrity still living in Idyllwild?”

It was Saturday night, Jan. 14, and we were chatting at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District of Palm Springs.

Sorry, Casey, but I instantly thought of “The Bronze Buckaroo,” Herb Jeffries, and not you. Although she was pretty, this woman was middle-aged.

“We just loved watching Casey each week on ‘American Idol’ (Season 10),” exclaimed Brenda Friend, of Palm Springs. “My friends and I even went to Los Angeles where they taped the show to meet him and get an autograph, but it never happened.”

She was almost giddy.

“Then we were thinking of going up to Idyllwild to meet him, if he still lived there.”

Going from relative obscurity to instant celebrity must be a surreal thing for Casey. To find middle-aged fans like Brenda who are willing to travel great distances to meet him. But the young ones are rabid too!

Remember when the ‘American Idol Live’ Tour ended Sept. 20-21 in The Philippines? Bianca King, a young actress, was hell-bent on meeting Casey, so she turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass.

They hit it off and had a good laugh when Bianca told him that if he dyed his hair black and got a spray tan, he’d make it as an actor in The Philippines. She then posted pictures of the two of them on her blog site.

Casey playing with other Idyllwild Arts students at the LA Club. Photo by Marcia Gawecki

Back at the Art Walk in Palm Springs, I told Brenda Friend that Casey’s parents still lived in Idyllwild, and Ira Abrams worked with me at Idyllwild Arts.

Then I found myself promising I would try to get Casey’s autograph.

I secretly hoped it was possible.

Brenda wrote down her Palm Springs address, and then rushed over to tell her husband and friends.

The funny thing was that Brenda hadn’t even heard about Casey’s latest You Tube video announcing his record deal with Concord Records. It’s the same label as Carole King and Kenny G.

Casey’s mom, Pam Pierce, sent an email saying there was an Idyllwild Arts connection to the video. The song was written, recorded and produced by Casey (all instruments and voices). The video was shot and edited at Idyllwild Arts by Nick Cain and Sean Stromsoe of Persistent Vision (former Idyllwild Arts film students).

“Oh, he’s so natural and fun-loving in front of the camera,” Brenda exclaimed. “His parents raised him right.”

To view Casey’s announcement video, click here: Casey_Abrams_Signed-1

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me (text and images, but not video). All rights reserved.

The Making of a Legend’s Banner

September 8, 2010

Shown under construction, the Herb Jeffries banner will be auctioned off at Cafe Aroma

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A couple of years ago, there was an event in Idyllwild honoring a Film Noir star, Colleen Gray. Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Cafe and Cafe Cinema, hosted the event. About 200 people showed up that night to watch “Nightmare Alley,” and hear Colleen speak of her experience with making the film. It was a great time, and at 11 p.m., Herb Jeffries and Savannah were the last to leave. Herb was 95 at the time.

In Idyllwild, Herb Jeffries is like everyone’s favorite uncle. He’s talented, handsome, positive and interested in everything. And he tells great stories about all of the people he’s met and worked with over the years. You just never get tired of being around Herb.

And he always thanks God for everything he’s ever received. He doesn’t sound preachy or anything. Just a man telling it like it is.

Louis Armstrong is part of the "Jazz in the Pines" banner series

Last year, I created a 7-foot banner of Herb Jeffries. It was part of my first “Jazz in the Pines” banner series shown outside of Cafe Aroma. The other banners included Marshall Hawkins (another local musician critical to the Jazz Fest); Miles Davis (whom Marshall played with!); Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday.

I was so nervous about making the banner and wondering if Herb would see it and like it, that I made myself sick. I stayed up all night painting it over and over again with my funky colored acrylic paint. By morning, I was shaking and tired, but still not satisfied with the outcome. But I had to turn it in.

A legend was going to see this banner. A legend who played with Duke Ellington and starred in cowboy westerns. He’s visited the president and has a star on the Walk of Fame. What would he think of my humble rendition of him?

“Did Herb like the banner?” I asked Frank Ferro, the owner/manager of Cafe Aroma, almost every day.

“He hasn’t seen it yet,” Frank said.

A couple of weeks after the Jazz Fest, Cafe Aroma hosted a birthday party for Herb Jeffries, and my banner served as the backdrop. A good time was had by all, and Herb saw the banner, Frank said. But that’s all Frank said.

It took a long time to decide if Herb's specs should be pink or purple

My guess was that Herb didn’t like it and Frank was too polite to tell me. So I pressed my friends and my boyfriend for their opinions.

“I like the one of Marshall Hawkins the best, even though he looks angry,” Jeffrey Taylor admitted. “But the one of Herb Jeffries I don’t like as much.”

Daggers in my heart, but constructive criticism, just the same.

When my neighbor’s friends came to stay for a few days this summer, they asked me to fly Herb’s banner outside my house. Les and Barbara Doaks knew Herb and Savannah Jeffries. They said they had seen a picture of Herb in “Cowboys & Indians” magazine recently. Herb had just attended some big rodeo event.

Once hanging outside my house, I realized the colors were all wrong. Hot pink and orange were not right for a legend. The trouble with painting door-sized banners is that it takes a lot longer to change colors. And when you change one color, it affects all of the others.  In fact, you can work yourself up into a feverish frenzy–to the point that you don’t know if it’s even Herb Jeffries anymore.

Jackson Pollock once said, “It’s easy getting into a painting, but sometimes you have to fight your way out.”

So this year, I was lucky enough to host another series of “Jazz in the Pines” banners at Cafe Aroma. I spent a lot of time repairing the 2009 banners, especially the one of Herb. The only new banner this year was of another local jazz musician, Barnaby Finch. Barnaby’s ended up being a “bear” to complete because it was larger, almost barn-door sized.

So when Cafe Aroma sent a Live Mail notice recently announcing the 97th birthday celebration for Herb Jeffries, I was thrilled! I trusted they would use my banner as the backdrop for another celebration. Sadly, Herb may not be there to celebrate his big day. Yet, Cafe Aroma plans to set up a live link to where Herb is recovering from his surgery.

And there’s going to be a fundraiser that night too. Local artists and musicians have been asked to contribute something. My 7-foot banner of Herb that has been smiling down on Cafe Aroma diners for two years now would be a natural. Donating the banner (worth $800) to a legend’s recovery fund would do my heart good.

“Herb used to do a lot of free concerts for people in Idyllwild,” Jeff told me. “He’s a very generous man.”

My only hope is that my Herb Jeffries Banner fetches more than $200. You just never know with live auctions. But Herb has always preached a strong faith in God and mankind. So whatever it fetches, it will be enough.

I just wish I knew if Herb liked it.

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