“The Signal” at City Winery Review – A Doo Wop Rhapsody


Even before the entertainment began you could feel the nostalgia fueled joy revving up in City Winery’s concert hall. 



Waiting to meet her fellow adventurists in her first meet-up, Suzetta Whitaker’s megawatt smile beamed across the room to all. This was also her first time to City Winery.  She was lured by the story of Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay Records that she had seen a documentary about a few years ago. 



Vee-Jay Records was the first female Black-owned label that landmarked the Blues, pioneered R&B, triggered the Four Seasons (which ultimately led to the Jersey Boys), introduced the Beatles to America, and was also a role model to Motown and Gary hometowners, The Jacksons.  “The Signal”, a Doo Wop Rhapsody was an homage to Vee-Jay and all those it touched.



At a nearby table James and Wanda Bass of Somonauk, Illinois on a date night were similarly readying for fun.  James said, “We were raised with this music.”  Wanda added, “..It was the early 60’s and we heard kids on street corners on the Near West side singing Doo Wop all the time.  This was when music was music!”



Leslie Lewis and Harry Frank of Lincoln Park were not only fans of Doo Wop in general but big fans of Stormy Weather



Harry goes back with the group’s Harry Farag, who created “The Signal” by mixing a recount of his personal story growing up in Gary and forays into Doo Wop with songs performed by his group, Stormy Weather with The Spaniels, and Willie Rogers of The Soul Stirrers.



And what fun it was—even for those of us who first heard these Doo Wop sounds when they were already beloved golden oldies.  If we weren’t singing along we were certainly bouncing along and often clapping. 



Name a Doo Wop standard and you heard it in “The Signal”--“Teenager in Love”, “My Girl”, “Working on a Chain Gang”, “Duke of Earl”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and even the Beatles’ “When I Saw Her Standing There” and more.   Unlike public television tributes to Doo Wop where they rollout aging stars with voices more gone than there, THIS CAST COULD SING! 



One would be hard pressed to say who was best—they all shined, and just when you thought you’d heard the best the next soloist came to show you their stuff – lacing songs with Gospel riffs, blues takeaways and above all STYLE.



Eileen Jacobs, who was attending with her Old Town School of Folk Music Singing Class buddy Tony Willis commented, “I love the variety you find at City Winery and especially when they have performers that aren’t that well-known to the general public.”  


Actually, Eileen’s first brush with Doo Wop was as a young girl singing with three friends on a corner in Albany Park.  If you felt like you just died and went to Golden Oldy Heaven you just looked across the table at Eileen and knew she was right there with you.


City Winery has a full calendar of musical events in many genres and is the only winery within city limits.


For a full schedule visit the City Winery’s web pages and/or to buy tickets call 312 733 WINE.


City Winery

1200 Randolph Street





Photos courtesy of "The Signal", unless otherwise indicated




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