“Band of Gold” Superstar Freda Payne Pays Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Updated 2 years ago by Angela Jones, Marshall Artists Series

HUNTINGTON, WV – Celebrated R&B and jazz vocalist Freda Payne will heat up the stage of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, Friday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. to pay tribute to the legendary Ella Fitzgerald, for Ella’s centennial celebration! 2017 would’ve been Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday. 

Payne, a life-long fan of Fitzgerald, is celebrating by touring her “Tribute to Ella” show encompassing personal stories and some of Ella’s most memorable songs including “A-Tisket, a-Tasket,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” and “Mack the Knife,” and more.  Additionally, Payne will entertain audiences with her greatest hits that we all know and love.

Payne’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald offers a tightly structured narrative that follows Fitzgerald’s career. Payne includes everything from Fitzgerald’s 1934 award-winning Apollo Theater debut in an amateur contest to vocalist and subsequent leader of the Chick Webb band, and her concert and recording career as the protégé of producer Norman Granz; but it is the songs that tell the story, defining a singer and an era with lyrical clarity.

Payne got an early start singing radio commercial jingles and winning several music talent contests while still a teenager in Detroit. She attracted the attention of several music-biz heavyweights including Berry Gordy, Jr., and the great Duke Ellington, who featured Payne as guest vocalist with his renowned orchestra.  After signing a recording contract, Payne shot to fame with her #1 Hit, “Band of Gold,” and “Bring the Boys Home.”  

Along with being musically talented, Freda Payne is also well known for her acting. She has starred in many Broadway shows including Jelly’s Last Jam, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Ain’t Misbehaving and Blues in the Night.  She has made film and TV appearances as well in such hits as The Book of Numbers, Rag Doll, Sprung, The Nutty Professor II:  the Klumps, Cordially Invited, Rhapsody and The Divorce.

Freda Payne discovered her musical talent at the young age of twelve. When her piano teacher realized Freda’s singing ability, Freda began singing for local affairs around Detroit and even entered a talent contest on local TV as well as the national TV show, Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour.  At age fourteen she joined The Don Large’s Make Way for Youth radio show broadcasted on the WJR station, and received her first album deal titled After the Lights Go Down and Much More!! on the impulse label with ABC Paramount in New York in 1963.

Three years later, Payne recorded her second album and became an early protégé of Quincy Jones during his big band era, and ended up performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in honor of Quincy’s seventy fifth birthday celebration.

When Payne came out with her previously stated 1970s hits “Band of Gold” and “Bring the Boys Home,” the producing team of Holland, Dozier, and Holland brought her to worldwide attention with both of those gold records, leading up to Payne receiving a nomination for best R&B female vocalist for Band of Gold, and another nomination from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s for her album on the Invictus label, CONTACT, also produced by Holland, Dozier, and Holland.

Her latest CD, Come Back to Me, is a return to Freda’s true jazz roots.  The highly acclaimed album features big band arrangements and features lush strings as well. 

Tickets for Freda Payne’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald are $73.55/$62.85/$52.15/$43.59. To see this music superstar perform and pay tribute to her idol Ella Fitzgerald, contact the Marshall Artists Series Box Office at 304-696-6656. Or order tickets online at Ticketmaster.com. You may also visit our box office located in the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse on the Marshall University campus. Box office hours are Monday through Friday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Freda Payne’s Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald is sponsored by Con-Jel, Intercultural Affairs at Marshall University, B97, WTCR, the Herald Dispatch, WSAZ, Marshall University and the Marshall Artists Series.

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