GRAVITY defying hair, jangling guitar, colourful clothing, and infectious rhythms – all of these things come to mind when you think about rockabilly music and lifestyle.
It is a way of life that Wangaratta’s Karen Ritchens has embraced since becoming part of local band, The Memphis Trio, in July 2016.
Karen, who also sings with well known local band Cutest Little Monster, said she was invited to play and sing with the band at a rehearsal, and it went so well her involvement just grew from there.
“It suits my voice, I relate to it well,” Karen said of rockabilly music. “It’s just high energy and it’s so much fun.” Karen said dressing up in the clothes of the era, and recreating vintage hair and makeup looks, is also a big part of what she enjoys about rockabilly performance. “It’s a lovely era,” she said. The band, whose members also include Greg Clarke, Frank Zaknich and Mark Griffiths, hail from across the North East, play a number of traditional rockabilly songs, although Karen said they often play some slower numbers, such as Patsy Cline’s classic Walking After Midnight.
Other artists covered include early Elvis and Gene Vincent, just to name a few.
Karen said memories of her late brother Gary, who was a fan of rockabilly music and shared the music he loved with her, helped inspire her performances.
One of the highlights of her career with the band saw her being compared to the “Queen of Rockabilly”, Wanda Jackson, at a performance in Melbourne, by someone who had toured with Wanda herself.
Karen said although she does not try to mimick other singers, she tries to embody the spirit of the music.
“I try to breathe authenticity and life into the songs, and give them the right kind of feel,” she said.
karen loves performing with the band, especially when they can perform at fundraising events to help the local community, such as a Stanley Primary School fundraiser on February 11 and a Moyhu Primary School fundraiser on February 25.
They are also performing to the public in Wangaratta at the All GM Show and Shine Day this March, and she said rockabilly music and fashion naturally go hand in hand with car shows.
Karen added that people who keep and maintain older cars – and those who simply admire the vehicles - already “have a strong connection with the 1950s era” and playing rockabilly music at events such as the Bright Rod Run and the upcoming show and shine “adds atmosphere”.
Miss KItty and the Memphis Trio will perform at the All GM Show and Shine Day held by Early Holden Car Club Wangaratta on Sunday, March 11 in Wangaratta’s Apex Park.
The event will have a 9am start with trophies presented at 1pm and it will be an alcohol and drug free event.
Entry is free and the display will feature more than 200 classic GMs including Holdens, Chevs, and more, and more information is available by calling Lester on 0427 500815 or Craig on 0428 737788.
Anyone seeking more information on Miss Kitty and the Memphis Trio, including news on further upcoming performances, can find it on the band’s Facebook page.
MUSIC AND FUN: Karen Ritchens has embraced rockabilly music and style as vocalist for Miss Kitty and the Memphis Trio.
BEAT GOES ON: Members of Miss Kitty and the Memphis Trio performing.