« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

John Lamb, Published May 23 2012

Weekend Watch: Fargo tribute to mark North Dakota songstress Peggy Lee’s birthday

Sure, you know Peggy Lee is North Dakota’s favorite daughter. And you know her birth name was really Norma Deloris Egstrom.

And if you like the late-great vocalist’s style, you also know that singer Stacy Sullivan, backed by pianist Jon Weber and bassist Steve Doyle, will pay tribute to the late-great star Saturday night at The Stage at Island Park. The show marks what would be Lee’s 92nd birthday on Saturday.

Lee’s life was rich with experience and success and her singing earned her fans around the country, even among her peers.

“Peggy Lee was the female Frank Sinatra...she was the epitome of popular jazz singing and a wonderful songwriter as well,” Tony Bennett told the Chicago Tribune after Lee died in 2002.

Even Ol’ Blue Eyes was smitten.

“Her wonderful talent should be studied by all vocalists; her regal presence is pure elegance and charm,” Sinatra said in 1994.

Like Sinatra, she crossed over from recording to films, including a memorable turn in “Lady and the Tramp.” (Actually it was four turns as she played Darling, Peg, and both the Siamese cats.)

Here are some things you may not know about Lee.

The singer was born to humble beginnings, the seventh of eight children in Jamestown, N.D. Her mother died when the Lee was 4 years old.

She was discovered by Benny Goodman at age 21 in a Chicago nightclub. Within a year of joining the clarinetist’s band, she’d recorded her first no. 1 hit, “Somebody Else is Taking My Place.”

The sweet-sounding singer was the inspiration for the “Peggy Lee” rose, a pink hybrid tea rose with a blush of peach.

Nominated once for an Academy Award (for her role in “Pete Kelly’s Blues”) and 12 times for a Grammy, it wasn’t until 1969 that she was honored with the Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Performance, Female, for the song, “Is That All There Is?” In 1995 she was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

A renowned writer and interpreter of songs, it was her idea to strip down the sound for her cover of Little Willie John’s “Fever,” including having the guitarist put down his instrument and instead add the signature snaps.

She scored 10 top 10 hits, including “Somebody Else is Taking My Place” (1941) and “Mañana is Soon Enough for Me,” (1948) and 25 top 20 hits.

Despite being known primarily as a jazz singer, Lee ranks 93rd On VH1’s 100 Greatest Women in Rock N Roll.

According to one story, the margarita is named after her. As legend has it, in 1948 a bartender at the Texas nightclub the Balinese Room, mixed a new drink for her, naming it after the Spanish version of the formal version of her name, “Margaret.”

For her 1974 album “Let’s Love,” she worked with Paul McCartney who wrote and produced the title track. She’d previously recorded Beatles songs like “Something” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

The Muppet Miss Piggy was originally named Miss Piggy Lee as a nod to Muppet designer Bonnie Erickson, whose mother grew up in North Dakota listening to Lee on the radio. The name was meant as a comic homage to Lee’s strong will and independence, but fearing it would upset the singer, the name was shortened.

If you go

What: A Tribute to Peggy Lee, with singer Stacy Sullivan

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: The Stage at Island Park, 333 4th St. S., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and $40 for VIP


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533