Sunday 31st March 2019

Celebrating the life of Doris Day - 97th birthday

This was our 10th outing to Ronnie’s for our Doris Day show – how quickly 10 years goes. It was a Sunday that happened to land on Mother's Day in the UK - it wasn't intended but we always try to play the Sunday closest to Doris' actual birthday, which is the 3rd April.  It was also the day we lost an hour due to daylight saving time so we sprang forward one precious lost hour.   It also almost coincided with the mayoral directive of ULEZ - London low emission zone, but we missed it by a week.  I was also worried about the mood of the nation as Brexit was supposed to have landed two days before but as we all know (and are still living through the excruciating experience) it has been delayed…again. Phew. The West End was certainly quieter than I have ever seen it and we managed to find a parking space easily for a change,  in Soho Square - as a musician when working in London these things are so important.  It certainly becomes more difficult and more expensive to work in London if you drive.                                                                                        

We (Simon and I) arrived first so I set out my wig, make up, dressing and shoes and set the stage with music and my usual table cloth and cake - just one Victoria sponge today. Gareth, my favourite engineer arrived just after Gavin Skeggs and piano tuner Dafydd.  We left them to it and recorded a version of You Go To My Head in the dressing room while I transformed from Sarah to Doris - wig and makeup anyway.   There is a relaxed atmosphere at Ronnie's on Sundays - as duty manager Manuella said, there are no managers and I suppose for the waiters there is a more relaxed atmosphere in the room, not so much drinking etc. and family orientated, all through the generations.  

I chose two dresses for today.  The lilac wedding dress I had worn a couple of years ago that I bought from The Wardrobe in Hastings.  The second outfit was a 60s two piece that I had bought many, many years ago.  I wore two pairs of Jimmy Choos: my faithful lilac striped ones and my turquoise and bejewelled sandals that I bought from Vegas in 2002, from a sale in The Venetian.  It had been my wedding and honeymoon.


We had a new song to perform today: Little Girl Blue, a beautiful Rodgers and Hart song written for Billy Rose’s Jumbo from 1935 and for the film version in which Doris starred in 1962 - her last musical, as the character Kitty Wonder.  Someone had requested it in the past and I was happy to include it. I try to work out what the favourite songs are when I’m singing on the stage and they're not always the same so I like to keep mixing them up as there are so many to choose from - what didn't Doris record or sing on the radio?

The other new addition to the show was a slide show, pictures I had taken of films, album sleeves and pictures that punctuated Doris life from start to 1968. I hadn't done one before but we are used to them at Ronnie's and all seemed fine during the sound check.  

As always the nerves kicked in last night - they are always present.  It means so much to present Doris and try to do the songs and her story justice and of course to perform at Ronnie Scott's and what is expected of such a famous venue especially in its 60th year. The crowd was as friendly and welcoming as it always is.  I have the most wonderful band and arrangements so my job is simple.  I just have to sing the songs with the love and passion I feel for them and to relax enough on stage to be able to talk in a relaxed, jovial and joyful manner.  Sounds easy doesn't it?  It's never easy but I do love it.

It was lovely to have Spencer back on bass, so solid at the back.  Freddie's tuning and pitch was as precise as always and he is a musician who is relaxed and happy on the stage.  Simon Pearson is the only drummer I ever want to work with because he is also so solid and expert to every rhythm change. Arthur Lea was on piano and his playing is so befitting to every songs and style.  Simon Golding obviously ties everyone together, directing, arranging, supporting (me) and his brilliant guitar playing. I say the same thing every gig but I feel so lucky to have this band behind me - I am nothing without them. Gavin Skeggs treated the room to his voice again and what a voice; such a beautiful tone, range.  It is a pleasure to share a stage with him anytime.

There were lots of birthdays in the room.  I said happy birthday to Peter Green from Herne Bay who was celebrating his 70th birthday.  I dedicated You Go To My Head to him, a romantic songs that I knew he would enjoy. It was Gavin's wife Ruth's birthday on the 1st April so she got a mention after he finished singing Higher Than A Hawk. 

You never know who will be in the room.  A lady came up to me to say it had been her third time at Ronnie's to see me - what an honour. The other interesting story came from Beryl who was celebrating her 91st birthday. She told me a story about meeting Frank Sinatra. She was the girlfriend of Norman Tokar, a director of the 60s and 70s, who directed an episode of The Doris Day show (episode 1, series 4 – ‘And Here’s…Doris!’). They were out to dinner and she asked their companion who he was. The man turned to Norman and said something like, “Hey Norman, who is this broad who doesn’t know my name?” He said, “Oh don’t worry about her, we call her ‘Brussel Sprout’!” What a great story. Beryl looked amazing for 91. I wanted to catch up with her after the show but sadly I missed out on her telling the story to me again.

The other birthdays in the room were: Elaine Burton, 60 on Wednesday (same as Doris’ birthday); Claire; Sarah’s 50th from Essex; Jane’s 60th; Patricia Reaneys; Maureen from Harrow and Carole from her dancing ladies!

In preparation for the show content I looked into Doris’ early life. She’s daughter of William and Alma Sophia, both German emigrants from Berlin. Doris’ maternal grandfather came over and set up a pretzel factory in the mostly German town of Cincinnati, where they all lived. She was named after Doris Kenyon who she would later live three doors away in Beverly Hills in the late 60s.

Because Andre Previn died last month I spoke about his piano playing in the film Young At Heart and we dedicated Close Your Eyes to him, from the album called Duets that he did with Doris in 1962. Another dedication was to David Sinclair, one of the Ronnie Scott’s photographers who first appeared in the mid-nineties and stayed for around 25 years. He sadly died last week after being ill since an accident a few years ago. He will be missed. It felt fitting to dedicate Que Sera Sera to him and as a fan of Doris he came to my show with his sister when we appeared in 2012. He had a dry sense of humour and said, “I passed your e-mail on to my sister, who has no taste whatsoever, and she says she is looking forward to it!! I will therefore bring her, on the understanding that you will not be slapping your thighs and singing ‘Windy City’ which I abhor.” He later said when he had received the confirmation, “Unless of course we will be the only ones there, but even so we'll still cheer for you.”

Having recently seen Move Over Darling for the first time on TV I was able to talk about the two films that Doris made with James Garner, one of her favourite co-stars (along with Rock Hudson). Even though I talk about some of the difficult times I always want it to celebrate the happiness, the joy people find in her films and music and of course to celebrate her longevity, her dedication to animals – the great humanitarian that she is.

Happy 97th birthday Doris Day!


Set list:
1. Shanghai – 1951
2. It’s Magic - 1948
3. You go to My Head 1949
4. With a Song in my Heart 1950
5. I Know that You Know 1950
6. Makin’ Whoopee 1951
7. The One I love Belongs to Somebody Else 1951
8. Bumble Bee – 1953
9. CALAMITY JANE – I Can do without you 1953
10. Black Hills of Dakota
11. Higher than A Hawk
12. Secret Love

13. Ready Willing and Able – 1955
14. You My Love – 1955
15. Close Your Eyes - 1955
16. Love Me Or Leave Me 1955
17. Que Sera Sera 1956
18. Hernandos Hideaway 1957
19. Teacher’s Pet
20. Pillow Talk 1959
21. Let’s Fly Away 1959
22. Little Girl Blue 1962
23. Move over Darling 1963
24. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps 1965
25. Sentimental Journey 1944
26. Day By Day 1946

1. Sarah Weller – vocals
2. Simon Golding – guitar
3. Freddie Gavita – trumpet
4. Arthur Lea – piano
5. Spencer Brown – bass
6. Simon Pearson – drums
7. Gavin Skeggs – (very) special guest vocalist

Photographs (except for the backstage ones that I took) Carl Hyde: