The Cream of the Nashville Background Singing Crop

imgallery-donna2Early in our careers in Nashville, Vicki Hampton and I were fortunate to sing a lot of backup sessions with Lea Jane Berinati, a numbers chart-writing, AFTRA-contracting DYNAMO! She would come in maybe an hour before the rest of us and write “charts” on notebook paper, assigning parts to us in the number system. She would always want to be on the bottom part, and Vicki and I would fight over which of us would take the top part. Some of the conflict was because, not having warmed up, the range of the notes would initially intimidate us. Most of the time we both just liked to sing that inner harmony, the middle note, that would hold the other parts fast and require the top singer to be on point and the bottom singer to keep great intonation, which Lea Jane definitely did.

There were others singers like the Cherry Sisters, whom I would sometimes sub for if one of them were double-booked. These women were the cream of the Nashville background-singing crop. Also, I cannot forget Yvonne Hodges, who always took the top part and was  on point about absolutely everything! She was punctual, charming, and fast to learn and memorize. She was also a fellow Fiskite, a classically trained soprano, and an inspiration; Yvonne showed me that I could use my classical training to sing in any genre I chose! These are a few of the great singers who got me to start seriously considering my own professional singing and musicianship.

Vicki and I were part of many singing groups in church and in school all our lives. Those early years of lots of musical experiences helped to develop lots of versatility, and gave us the ability to sing any part with any combination of singers! The prospect of continuing with this really fun activity as a job for life was not much more than big dreams of fame, fortune, and success in the minds of two young Kentucky girls. Little did we know, the dreams would become reality, and one day we’d be seasoned professional vocalists in the entertainment industry, touring, session singing, teaching, arranging, writing, being sought for our talent – yes, divas!

Somebody Talkin’ About Jesus

I was recovering from a horrible auto wreck, in barefoot, following through with a show I’d been rehearsing for weeks before the wreck. I went on the stage at Exit Inn( Ithink, somebody help me! It may have been the War Memorial or some place like that!) When I had finished a horribly frantic over-done, busy set of maybe 4-5 songs, the emcee came out and said, “We’ve got a young lady who just came to town this week… she wants to have a career in the record industry. Why don‘t we help her get started with a nice welcoming hand?”

We clapped…

Out walked Kathy Mattea, guitar strung across her shoulder and under her arm. I’m still speechless in remembering that indescribable rich true gorgeous siren of a voice!!! Next thing I knew I was singing on her record(s)!! This is one of the opps Vicki Hampton and I got to be as creative as the artist, and it’s because Kathy had the chops to let us do our thing and still show totally OUT!!!!!!!