Bay Area African American Women in Music: ‘Music is in The Ear of The Beholder,’ Says Faye Carol

0
688

Veteran Bay Area vocalist Faye Carol doesn’t like being tagged a “jazz singer” or “blues singer,” although she sings both.

“Music is in the ear of the beholder,” says the longtime Berkeley resident. “Those are nice words for boxes for selling. If somebody’s gonna come and buy something, they gotta compartmentalize you. I just don’t believe in boxing myself in.”

Carol says, “I’ve been blessed to be able to sing what I like. My biggest hero for that was Ray Charles. You could not pigeonhole that man. He brought his Rayness to whatever he did.”

Carol was born in Meridian, Mississippi, and spent her first 10 years there with her grandmother, a schoolteacher. Except for summers, when she travelled to Port Chicago, California, to be with her parents who moved there for work.

Carol says living in Mississippi was “absolutely wonderful,” yet she was well aware of the “white only” signs and other forms of racism that surrounded her.

“The great thing about segregation was that you were just with your own people,” she says.

“The other thing about segregation that wasn’t so great, but still had side benefits was that you had to be pretty self-sufficient ‘cause wasn’t nobody gonna come and do too much of nothin’ for you. We had our own newspaper, our own restaurants, our own undertakers, our own hairdressers and those juke joints on the outskirts of town,” says Carol.

“We never did try to go into [white] restaurants,” she adds. “Our food was better, anyway.”

Carol began singing in church as a teenager in Pittsburg – where her family had relocated from Port Chicago – and joined a gospel group called the Angelaires, led by pianist-songwriter Faidest Wagoner and also included future singing star Leola Jiles. They performed at churches throughout Northern California and did a national tour, including stops in Chicago, Detroit and New York City.

After winning a talent contest at the Oakland Auditorium during the mid-‘60s, Carol landed a gig with R&B guitarist Johnny Talbot and De Thangs at the Zanzibar Room in the California Hotel.

Carol has, for many years, imparted her vast knowledge of African American music to children, teenagers and adults through workshops and private lessons.

Her late husband, Jim Gamble, a jazz guitar player and bassist who taught Black music history at U.C. Berkeley, helped broaden her musical horizons beyond the R&B hits of the day. She in turn began schooling their daughter Kito, then a budding young piano player, in the music of blues pianist Otis Spann and such jazzmen as McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor.

Kito went on to work as her mother’s piano accompanist for more than a decade before launching her own career as a Christian rapper, known as Sista Kee.

On Sunday, May 10 at 5 p.m., Carol will perform with her quartet and some of her students at the EastSide Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd. in Oakland. For more information, call (510) 533-6629.

Veteran Bay Area vocalist Faye Carol doesn’t like being tagged a “jazz singer” or “blues singer,” although she sings both.

“Music is in the ear of the beholder,” says the longtime Berkeley resident. “Those are nice words for boxes for selling. If somebody’s gonna come and buy something, they gotta compartmentalize you. I just don’t believe in boxing myself in.”

Carol says, “I’ve been blessed to be able to sing what I like. My biggest hero for that was Ray Charles. You could not pigeonhole that man. He brought his Rayness to whatever he did.”

Carol was born in Meridian, Mississippi, and spent her first 10 years there with her grandmother, a schoolteacher. Except for summers, when she travelled to Port Chicago, California, to be with her parents who moved there for work.

Carol says living in Mississippi was “absolutely wonderful,” yet she was well aware of the “white only” signs and other forms of racism that surrounded her.

“The great thing about segregation was that you were just with your own people,” she says.

“The other thing about segregation that wasn’t so great, but still had side benefits was that you had to be pretty self-sufficient ‘cause wasn’t nobody gonna come and do too much of nothin’ for you. We had our own newspaper, our own restaurants, our own undertakers, our own hairdressers and those juke joints on the outskirts of town,” says Carol.

“We never did try to go into [white] restaurants,” she adds. “Our food was better, anyway.”

Carol began singing in church as a teenager in Pittsburg – where her family had relocated from Port Chicago – and joined a gospel group called the Angelaires, led by pianist-songwriter Faidest Wagoner and also included future singing star Leola Jiles. They performed at churches throughout Northern California and did a national tour, including stops in Chicago, Detroit and New York City.

After winning a talent contest at the Oakland Auditorium during the mid-‘60s, Carol landed a gig with R&B guitarist Johnny Talbot and De Thangs at the Zanzibar Room in the California Hotel.

Carol has, for many years, imparted her vast knowledge of African American music to children, teenagers and adults through workshops and private lessons.

Her late husband, Jim Gamble, a jazz guitar player and bassist who taught Black music history at U.C. Berkeley, helped broaden her musical horizons beyond the R&B hits of the day. She in turn began schooling their daughter Kito, then a budding young piano player, in the music of blues pianist Otis Spann and such jazzmen as McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor.

Kito went on to work as her mother’s piano accompanist for more than a decade before launching her own career as a Christian rapper, known as Sista Kee.

On Sunday, May 10 at 5 p.m., Carol will perform with her quartet and some of her students at the EastSide Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd. in Oakland. For more information, call (510) 533-6629.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here