BETTY WATERS, email@example.com
The Doo Wop music of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s comes alive when the new East Texas trio Kathy and the Doo Wops takes the stage, carrying audiences back to the era of Doo Wop.
They have the look to go with the music: poodle skirts, oxford shoes, bobby socks, neck scarves, belt, button-up blouses and bling.
As the group sang Friday at the Tyler Senior Center with comedy mixed in, Martha Morrill reminisced in the audience, recalling in her youth having driven down Broadway and gone around the square with the radio turned up blaring Doo Wop music.
"I love that kind of music," she said.
For Dee Kirkpatrick, who graduated in 1956, the concert brought back a lot of memories of Doo Wop songs played on 45 single records at school dances Saturday nights.
Russell Ward said, "I started listening to (Doo Wop) music when Elvis hit the scene about 1955-56 and I've always been a fan of this kind of music."
Bill Craig got to be a teenager in the 1960s, but remembers it was the 1950s music that his parents listened to.
"I love the '50s music," he said. "We like the singers (Kathy and the Doo Wops). The music is good and their voices are good. We are enjoying them."
Some of the Doo Wop music the trio sings includes songs originally sung by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, the Andrews Sisters and Patsy Cline.
"It's good music. It's an era that doesn't have bad language in it. It's enjoyable and good clean fun," said Kathy Sutton, of Tyler, leader of Kathy and the Doo Wops. "A lot of people love that era. It was just a happy time back then. Everybody had a good time listening to Doo Wop."
Other members of the trio are Melinda McFarlin, of Troup, and Nancy Crim, of Ben Wheeler, whose husband, David, is the group's manager and runs the sound system. They have a large repertoire, performing about 30 songs in every concert or show.
The trio – Crim, 65; Sutton, 60; and McFarlin, 53 - mostly sing to audiences of people in their 50s and older. For example, they provide entertainment at birthday parties and at high school reunions celebrating 40, 50, 55 or even 60 years since graduation.
"We also do veterans programs," Crim said. The group's first program when it kicked off last March was a performance for veterans at Harvey Convention Center.
"We do a lot of military music … a lot of patriotic music … when we do those type of shows," she said.
When the trio began singing Doo Wop music, Crim was surprised how many of the Doo Wop songs she remembered from when she was growing up.
Singing Doo Wop, Crim said: "You can let your hair down and relax with it. What I get out of performing with Kathy and the Doo Wops is pure fun. I feel like we are giving people something that makes them feel better and puts a smile on their face, but we get so much more back than what we give."
Sutton agreed, saying the Doo Wops are giving to people.
"You see how much they are enjoying it by their faces, their smiles, their clapping. They remember the good times when you are singing. We give but they give us so much more," she said
McFarlin said, "The reason I love it so is it's so lighthearted."
It was Sutton who suggested they form a Doo-Wop group. The other two said it sounded like fun and they were off. Sutton and Crim had previously sung Doo Wop for years, but for McFarlin, it was a new experience.
All of the Doo Wops got their start singing southern gospel music, still sing gospel and are active in church.
The three first got together last December to revive the gospel group Tender Mercies before forming Kathy and the Doo Wops last spring. Now they perform usually twice a month, either as the Doo Wops or as Tender Mercies.
As Tender Mercies, they sing old hymns and gospel songs such as "I'll Fly Away," "Victory in Jesus" and "Over at the Glory Land."
McFarlin, who has been singing about 15 years, said, "One day the Lord said ‘sing' and I obeyed." She began singing gospel solo, then met Crim and they sang together for a while before teaming up with Sutton.
McFarlin feels it is her duty to spread the word through songs of salvation through Jesus.
Crim, whose father was a Baptist minister, was raised around gospel music and sang with her family in church.
"Gospel music has always been a part of my life," she said. "Gospel music is a total blessing to do that. I know without a doubt God called me to do this ministry."
Many years ago, Crim sang with a group called The Revelations.
Sutton, who grew up singing gospel with her family, since her father was a deacon in the Baptist church, also feels called by God to sing gospel music. Watching people's faces during a performance, she said, "You know the Lord is talking to them through the song you are singing to them."
The trio practices one night a week. When they are not performing or practicing, they are busy with grandchildren and great-grandchildren and other activities.
McFarlin and her husband are small business owners in Tyler. Crim, a paralegal, works full time in Tyler. Sutton, a retired food service manager, works part time, plays for her church and takes care of an Alzheimer's patient in her home.
To book Kathy and the Doo Wops, call Kathy Sutton, 903-316-5469.