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"Good As Gold" The Artist and Her Music
Multi-million Seller Songwriter/Recording Artist Gretchen Christopher creates a rare rapport with audiences. As one listener said, "She wraps her warm voice around you and leads you down a goose pimple path."
Upon seeing Gretchen Christopher perform, Legendary Jazz Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie said,
"You sing like an angel."
Meeting Gretchen at the Grammy Awards, Winner Linda Ronstadt exclaimed, "I love your music!"
Gretchen's music has the quality of standards. Her autobiographical lyrics and memorable melodies express themselves softly, profoundly; documenting feelings and experiences from teen years through love, loss, laughter and life thereafter.
Audiences share her musical journey, from the 1959 Gold #1 Record and Best Selling Sheet Music "COME SOFTLY TO ME" ('n doo be doo, Dom dom) and Top 40 Hit "GRADUATION'S HERE" (both of which she co-wrote and sang lead on, with The Fleetwoods) to the inspiring and soul-bared lyrics, dynamic and haunting tunes she's writing today, worthy of Broadway.
Her first song having logged nearly three million air plays in the USA alone, Broadcast Music, Inc. has repeatedly honored Songwriter Gretchen Christopher and "Come Softly To Me" as BMI Million Airs.
Translated and recorded by over 100 different artists and being broadcast worldwide for decades of radio and television audiences, "Come Softly to Me" is also heard in movies:
Besides numerous television performances, Gretchen appears in one movie, is portrayed in another, and her Fleetwoods hits are featured in the soundtracks of a dozen motion pictures, including:
Her music is familiar to the youngest movie-goers, as well as the millions who bought her records and hear them broadcast today.
Cited as "Actress-Singer-Composer" with the ability to dramatize a song and move an audience beyond the mere recitation of lyrics and music, Gretchen Christopher received, in December 1992, the Southern California Motion Picture Council's highest honor, the Jeanie Golden Halo Eagle "Superstar" Award, for her contribution to the Entertainment Industry and Performing Arts.
When she reprised her autobiographical show "Come Softly To Me, Gretchen Christopher" at Hollywood's Cinegrill in '93 and '94, the Music & Performing Arts Angels presented to her, for lifetime achievement, the Angel Victory Award, naming Gretchen Christopher "Inspirational star, singer, composer, artist, dancer, choreographer." The latest in a distinguished line of honorees, from Sammy Davis Jr. in 1979 to Debbie Reynolds in 1993.
Making her life and living in the arts, Gretchen danced, choreographed, and sang solo on television at age 17, founded The Fleetwoods at age 18, sang lead on more than 20 of their recordings, and wrote 11 of them.
She's performed and led the vocal arranging on 15 albums, including 11 nationally charted hits ("MR. BLUE", "TRAGEDY", "GOODNIGHT MY LOVE", and "(He's) THE GREAT IMPOSTER", to name a few), spending a total of 110 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100.
In 1988, delighting the audience by wearing the same gown she'd worn 28 years earlier when Dick Clark presented her with her first gold records, dancer trim, blonde and blue-eyed Gretchen accepted another Gold Record as The Fleetwoods were inducted into the NW MUSIC HALL OF FAME
Kicking off the '90's CD, THE BEST OF THE FLEETWOODS, Gretchen reprised the classics in her concert by the same name. She then introduced one of her new up-tempo tunes and wowed the audience with her dancing and an energy only hinted at in the trio's recordings. Result: Two encores, a standing ovation, and an invitation to headline, with her own songs, the Bob Hope USO Show for the "Chosin Few" (2000+) at the Tropicana in Las Vegas (for survivors of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir).
Solo, Gretchen has performed her new music and world-renowned hits in London, Manchester, Paris, Moscow, Helsinki, Brussels, Edinburgh, and from Mexico City to the Worlds Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. She's sung and danced across Europe and was featured in "Celebrity Corner" on the HAL Scandinavian Symphony Cruise and First Caribbean Cruise of the New Millennium.
Gretchen Christopher A resident of her birthplace, Olympia, Washington, "the hippest town in the West" (TIME Magazine, re: Ladyfest), Gretchen Christopher is featured in the documentary film "Go With The Flow". She paved the way for many artists. Her trio, The Fleetwoods, were the first Northwest label artists to achieve national #1 Hits and earn Gold Records for millions of sales (now equivalent to Platinum).
Gretchen's classes in Jazz Dance were part of the nucleus around which The Evergreen State College (TESC) formed its Leisure Education Program, to which she added Disco, A Cappella Doo-Wop Singing, Ballet, and Swing, during her three decades of teaching while performing. From the mid-Seventies, on into the new millennium, Gretchen and her dancers provided the first and continuing entertainment for TESC Super Saturday, the biggest 1-day festival in Washington. In 1978, appointed to St. Martins College Adjunct Faculty as Sr. Lecturer 1 in the Discipline of Fine Arts (equivalent to Ph.D.) Christopher introduced Jazz Dance into the curriculum and numbered monks among her students.
In 2000, acknowledged for a lifetime of achievements, Gretchen Christopher and Washington Governor Albert Rosellini were among those honored as "Voices of Washington."Gretchen Christopher continues to be a woman of many "firsts", bridging two centuries. In Seattle, she performed for the June 25, 2000, Grand Opening Concert of the Experience Music Project (EMP), which is exhibiting her first Fleetwoods tour costume and Gold Records, the first earned by a Northwest artist.
Her performances of Jazz, Gospel, and Fleetwoods hits followed, in July, at (Ventures Guitarist) Nokie's First Northwest Music Celebration, In August, Gretchen Christopher and the Coasters opened Issaquah's First Full Scale Music Festival, and in November, Gretchen served as Panelist for the first ROCKRGRL Music Convention 2000.
Always a trouper, the Original Voice of The Fleetwoods, Gretchen Christopher did appear at the Skagit Valley Casino's new Pacific Showroom, despite its being the day after the 6.8 Nisqually Earthquake, February 28, 2001 (bringing to mind her inspirational performances at Hollywood's Cinegrill, after the devastating Northridge Quake).
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, Gretchen rededicated her October 13, 2001, booking into a two-hour solo concert of original music, "Come Softly To Me for Peace on Earth", 100% of the proceeds going to benefit survivors of the 9/11 tragedies. Gretchen continues to compose original music and lyrics which, in solo concerts, have brought standing ovations.
After 11 Billboard hit singles and 15 albums as The Fleetwoods' lead female vocalist, arranger, and BMI Million Airs Songwriter, Gretchen Christopher has now written, recorded, produced, and released her first SOLO CD, Gretchen's SWEET SIXTEEN (SUITE 16). Recorded in California, Texas, and Washington, the 16-song autobiographical concept album and a 16-page booklet of liner notes document a true love story and the life of its writer, through six decades.
Submitted for Grammy consideration (including new recordings of a cappella "Come Softly", #1 Hit "Come Softly To Me" and Top 40 Hit "Graduations Here"), Suite 16 is among the 2007 Billboard Critics' Picks for 10 Best Albums of the Year. When Gretchen was 16 and "he" was 18 (the older man in her life), they met and fell in love for the very first time. (Who knew it would last all his life?) Two years later, she left to pursue her dreams.
Achieving storybook success, first solo and then as The Fleetwoods, yet finding loneliness at the top, she poured out her feelings in writing songs reflecting love and loss, wrestling depression, searching for self, and a new attitude. Now after nearly four decades apart, she and her first love are together again! And Gretchen's sweet 16, again (born February 29th (:o)! It is the stuff of dreams (what if we could meet our first love again?) - a true story, celebrating Gretchen's SWEET SIXTEEN! (SUITE 16).
A Leap Year Day Baby, born February 29th, to musical parents, Helen and Ian Christopher, in Olympia, Washington, Gretchen Diane Christopher committed her life to the arts before her fifth birthday. She wrote a high school paper entitled "Give Me Professional Entertainment!" and made her professional debut singing solo, choreographing, and dancing for television.
A few months later, Gretchen composed "Come Softly" at the piano at Olympia High School. For the Senior Class Talent Assembly, she sang and combined it in counterpoint with the street corner humming and harmony of two classmates, creating what would become the magic of "Come Softly To Me" and the trio "The Fleetwoods."
Gretchen recorded the song and the trio at home and took the tape to Seattle Record Promoter Bob Reisdorff. He listened, said, "It'll sell a million!" and formed Dolphin (soon changed to Dolton) Records. "Come Softly To Me" became the #1 Record, Best Selling Sheet Music in the U.S. and Britain, a worldwide hit, and the first Gold Record (million-seller) produced on a Northwest label. Co-written by former-fellow-cheerleaders Gretchen and Barbara for their Senior Class Party, "Graduation's Here," was the second Top 40 Hit (#1 Hit "Come Softly To Me" being the first) on which Gretchen sang lead, with Barbara adding kid-glove harmony, and Gary a doo-wop scat back-up.
When not singing melody, Gretchen led the vocal arranging, harmonizing, and creating the dynamic fills and answer lines that earmarked the "Fleetwoods Sound" -- with the third member following her in close harmony. Such was the case with their third release, "Mr. Blue", which also turned to Gold.
The Fleetwoods became the only group in the world to have two #1 Hits top Billboard in 1959. According to Jerry Osborne's Ask Mr. Music column (6/12/06), "From 1940 through 1969, The Fleetwoods are the only mixed-gender trio to have more than one No 1 hit."
After eleven hit singles on Billboards Hot 100, including nine Top 40, three Top Ten and two Number One Hits, The Fleetwoods chose retirement, and Gretchen continued to write and perform, keeping The Fleetwoods name and music alive. Following the success of her solo concerts, in 1982 the other group members asked Gretchen to reorganize The Fleetwoods and train a replacement for Barbara Ellis, the female member who retired.
Gretchen Christopher was contracted to serve as Manager, with "the sole authority to bind the Original and Replacement Fleetwoods by contract for any performance commitment as manager deems appropriate to carry out the business of The Fleetwoods."
Serving as choreographer, scriptwriter, graphic designer, publicist, and P.R. person, Gretchen expanded the trio's performance repertoire, from just the usually-requested top three songs to a fully choreographed 20-song, one-hour show, complete with dialogue and costume changes. As Manager, she negotiated bookings for the group, from Southern Cal Expo at Del Mar to Madison Square Garden in New York, from Americana Lake Geneva to the Tropicana in Las Vegas, resulting in the most active period of performing since The Fleetwoods first hit.
Near the end of 1983, Gary Troxel, the male member of the group gave his written resignation and relinquished his right to perform as The Fleetwoods. Gretchen Christopher became the only remaining Original still performing. The sole authority to contract for and carry out the business of the Fleetwoods, Gretchen auditioned and trained Replacements on both coasts, and continued to keep the name and music alive, interspersing group bookings between solo performances, as she does to this day.
THE FLEETWOODS starring GRETCHEN CHRISTOPHER headlined in Las Vegas, November 2007, kicking off the release of GRETCHEN'S SWEET SIXTEEN (SUITE 16), her autobiographical concept album in which The Fleetwoods are included on one track. Just a month later, they learned that GRETCHEN'S SWEET SIXTEEN (SUITE 16) is among the 2007 BILLBOARD CRITICS' PICKS for 10 BEST ALBUMS of the year!
Sound Clips (Suite 16)
Click on song title to hear sample