Beth Fitchet Wood

Beth Fitcher Wood

Beth Fitchet Wood is a singer, guitarist, composer and producer. Her main influences are in the folk, pop, musical theatre, jazz and rock ‘n roll genres. She was in the Southern California band, Honk in the early seventies, who released three albums and toured nationally with Loggins and Messina, Chicago and the Beach Boys. After Honk, Beth played in just about every conceivable musical format, in most kinds of venues. She also toured the world as a background vocalist and assistant producer.

In the 1980s, Beth recorded and co-produced two children’s albums with her co-Honk members Will Brady and Steve Wood, her husband. These were recently re-released on her CD entitled “Autumn To May.” She also recorded an album with her girls group, The Girls in 1988 entitled “That’s What Dreams are For.”

During the 1990’s, she recorded an album with her guys group Zero Ted entitled “Sacred Cow,” and her album “Silos,” featuring 8 original songs, has the same cast of characters. She most recently recorded a CD of pop tunes and Honk favorites entitled “Angel On My Shoulder,” with unique instrumentation. The basic tracks for that CD were recorded in Slovenia, with a string/accordion band! Beth will take just about any excuse to sing, and has been given many wonderful opportunities to do that, singing background on hundreds of albums, IMAX soundtracks and commercials.

Since the turn of the millennium, Beth has accompanied her husband Steve on his worldwide production adventures for Sony Classical, striving to make herself useful at concerts he produced at the Colosseum in Rome, and Central Park in New York (with their son Nate!), and has been fortunate to assist at recording sessions with some of the best new tenors of our time. In 2005, she was production assistant for Steve’s Greek IMAX soundtrack, “Greece – Secrets Of The Past,” which featured 5 of the biggest Greek recording stars. She also co-wrote the title track for the IMAX film, “Hurricane On The Bayou.”

Then she comes home to Laguna Beach, teaches music to her students, runs her Tuesday Night Songwriter’s Showcase, plays live with her group The Girls and occasionally does concerts with her old pals in Honk.

It has been suggested that I write a more thorough bio, ala the modern blog idea, so here goes: I was born in Port Washington New York and moved to Phoenix Arizona when I was 2. I grew up there, and as my parents embraced the heat and the horses and the desert, so did I. My mother and father loved music and were aspiring actors in musical comedy, so that was my first main musical influence, along with Burl Ives, the Sons of the Pioneers, Harry Belafonte and Mary Martin. In fact, they were my first heroes, along with Betty Crocker. I always sang, and first appeared on stage when I was 3, singing “Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell – a,” a fine song.

A lot of stuff happened in between, and when I was 14 I first heard the Beatles on the car radio riding to school with my brother Philip. Though I had always been pathologically shy, this event knocked me out so fiercely I burst into P.E. shouting about it. Life changing! At barely 15, I went to a party and my friend Jan let me try out her Gibson, properly tuned, and I fell onto a road I never fell back out of. Then, Mary Ann Jones lent me her Bob Dylan “Freewheelin'” album, and after thinking how weird and bad his voice sounded on “Blowin’ In The Wind,” that next song started, which was “Girl From The North Country,” and I sobbed on the floor for the rest of the time. I don’t know why I knew how good it was. Luck.

I met some other musicians in Phoenix, Doug Haywood and Jeff Gilkinson, and we decided to work together and take Hollywood by storm. Doug was (is) a wonderful songwriter, guitarist, singer and bass player, and Jeff had (has) a strange conglomeration of talents, including playing telepathic harmonica, banjo and ripping cello. After a brief practice session in Washington, we all moved to Hollywood and started playing the various Hoot Nights.

That was 1969, and Monday nights at the Troubadour were magic. About the first four or five Mondays, I first heard Jackson Browne, Longbranch and Pennywhistle (Glenn Fry and J.D. Souther), Carla and Lisa Bonoff, Penny Nichols, then Judee Sill and Tom Waits. Incredible to come across that music without warning. I’d stumbled into the motherlode. Our band played several times on Mondays, and thus developed a passing acquaintance with those people, which resulted in Doug landing a twenty-year gig with Jackson Browne. I simply had to learn his songs, and since the only way to do that in those days was to memorize like crazy and get busy with the bar napkins, that’s what I did. I’d play those wonderful songs for anyone who would listen, including the folks at Criterion Music, a publishing house in Hollywood. They agreed that Jackson Browne’s songs were very special but they didn’t think his voice was so great, so they asked if I would sing some demos of his songs for them to shop. The Criterion folks thought the songs needed a little fleshing out musically too, so it was suggested that I team up with this new band to accompany me. The band was Honk.

Strangely enough, I’d met Honk a few months before at a Hoot night at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach. I’d seen that Jackson Browne had gotten a gig there, so I thought I’d try my luck too. It was another Monday night thing and Honk had just formed, and there were some other brand new acts, namely Cheech and Chong, and the Ice House Blues Band. Honk played fascinating music: “My Analyst,” by Lambert Hendricks and Ross, and some crazy original music, written by them and also by Mark Turnbull. They were extremely cute, especially the keyboard player. Woody. Surfer dude with long hair.

Both Honk and I got the gig, for the same night. It was a strange pairing of acts: me, a skinny curly haired shy, introverted folksinger; and Honk, a ripping rock and roll band with jazz roots and the happiest, most energetic attitude I’d ever come across. Somehow it worked very well.

More later.

Florence Riggs

Florence Riggs

Florence Riggs teaches a vocal technique which is predicated on singing as an extension of your speaking level: speech level connected singing. It’s applicable to all styles of singing and helps to remove the mystique about the middle voice mix and navigating through the passaggios/bridges of registration.

Florence has a B.A. in Voice from Caldwell College, N.J., and a Master’s Degree in Voice and Opera from the Manhattan School of Music, NYC. Vocal technique teacher for 40 years. Vocal Toning workshops for 20 years. Performer for over 45 years. Co-founder of five music improvisation groups…”Song Waves 1,” “Song Waves 2,” “Voce Arcana,” “Musement,” and “Gaia Mama.” As a member of the Independent Composers Association helped to pioneer the concept of a non-jazz, free-form, improvisational, spontaneous mode of vocal music called “Toning.” She has taught many singers and non-singers to consciously hear and sing overtones as a mode of chanting.

A partial list of artists who have studied with her include: Herbie Hancock, Patrice Rushen, Syreeta Wright, Carnie and Wendy Wilson (Wilson Phillips ), Katey Sagal (Married With Children, Eight Simple Rules), Barry Bostwick (Spin City), Dixie Carter (Designing Women, Family Law), Sam Harris (Star Search), Paulo Costanzo (Joey), Keith David, Jim Sloyan, Peter Reckell (Days of Our Lives), Dale Kristien (Phantom of the Opera), Wally Kurth (General Hospital), McKenzie Westmore (Passions), Talia Sodi, Martin Short, Michael McKean (Spinal Tap), Jeff Goldblum, Helen Slater, Triniti, Michael Pinder (Moody Blues), The Rooney Band (Robert Carmine, Ned Brower, Taylor Locke, Louis Stephens), John Saxon, Peter Mark Richman, Millicent Martin, Alan Rich, Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blues), Yumi Matsutoya, Cindy Yamamoto, Miho Nakayama, The Rock ‘n Roll Soldiers….. Also including singer/songwriters Penny Nichols, Severin Browne, Kristina Olsen, Linda Schack, Tena Moyer….

Voice studio is located in Sherman Oaks. CA. – 818- 990- 1221

Penny Nichols

Like many musicians in the Sixties, Penny Nichols started her career as a folk singer in coffeehouses around Orange County, CA. She shared the stage with legendary artists such as Jackson Browne, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Ponies, Jennifer Warnes and Mary McCaslin.

In 1964 & 65 she sang in a bluegrass band with John, Bill & Alice McEuen and then formed a duo with Kathy Smith called the Greasy Mountain Butterballs which toured Vietnam in the fall of 1966. Upon returning, she opened the show for numerous artists at the Troubadour and Ash Grove in Hollywood.

In the spring of 1967, Penny rode up to San Francisco on the back of a Harley motorcycle and decided to stay in the Bay Area for a while. She performed in concerts and clubs all over the bay area including: the Fillmore, the Avalon, the Matrix and opened for bands such as Big Brother and the Holding Co. (Janis Joplin), Steve Miller, Quicksilver Messenger Service, 13th Floor Elevator, Chocolate Watchband, Jefferson Airplane and others. During the “Summer of Love”, Penny played at the Big Sur Folk Festival and recorded her first album, Penny’s Arcade, for Buddha Records. (It eventually sold over 50,000 copies)

After touring the U.S. promoting her album in the fall, she toured Europe in the winter of 1968, staying with George & Patty Harrison and recording at Apple Studios while in London. On her return to the U.S., she decided to devote her time exclusively to songwriting for a number of years and studied voice with noted vocal coach, Florence Riggs. In 1975, she began to perform around Los Angeles with her jazz band, the Black Imp, and opened the show for Little Feat in concert. She wrote and performed commercials for Toyota’s campaign to plant a tree for every car bought, Carnation Dairies, and produced a public service announcement for the Navajo Nation called “Black Mesa” to protest the misuse of the land around the Four Corners power stations in Arizona.

In 1977, while working with Emitt Rhodes on a record for Elektra, Penny joined Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefers. She appeared in the movie FM with the band toured the U.S. and earned a Platinum Record for her singing on Son of a Son of a Sailor.

In the late 70’s & 80’s, Penny went back to school and earned degrees in Music & Psychology from Antioch University, and then went on to Harvard University to do research in music & psychology eventually earning a doctorate in Education there. During the same time, she recorded and toured with many performers including: Art Garfunkel (Fate for Breakfast) Suzi Quatro, Yvonne Elliman, Jennifer Warnes, Albert Brooks, The Credibility Gap, Steve Gillette and earned a Grammy nomination for her work on Arlo Guthrie’s album The Power of Love. In 1990, Penny co-produced her second album, All Life is One.

In 1993, she released another record, Songs of the Jataka Tales. In 1997, Penny and Molly Mason collaborated on the song The Unbroken Thread which is included on the CD, the Catskill Collection.

Her most recent ventures include a new album of songs by Jackson Browne called Colors of the Sun: Penny Nichols sings the early songs of Jackson Browne, based on her long friendship with Jackson. She has also recorded a Harmony and Background Vocal arranging CD’s; a book and CD called the 8 Voyages of Nep, songs of grieving and healing through cancer treatments; and has taught at many other music camps across the country, including SAMW, Colorado Roots and Moab Folk Camp.

Severin Browne

Severin Browne

Severin Browne began teaching guitar when he was 13 or 14 to a neighborhood kid who wanted to learn “Secret Agent Man.” His focus changed as he was signed by Motown Records as both a staff writer and an artist at the tender ago of 21. Since then he has released 2 LPs with Motown, one with the Japanese label Moo Records, and two self-released solo CDs. He has also released 2 CDs with the Tall Men Group, six songwriters who play as a band and have monthly song challenges. Along the way, he has shared stages with the Kingston Trio, John Hartford, Kenny Rankin, Crystal Gayle, Willis Alan Ramsey, Country Joe & The Fish, and his brother Jackson, among others. His songs have been recorded by Thelma Houston, Patti Dahlstrom, Colin Blunstone, Twiggy, Daisaku Kume, and Elderlocke. Through it all, his love of songwriting has been the passion that has defined his life. He began teaching songwriting at SummerSongs East in 2001, and is very happy to be continuing at SummerSongs West 2017 and beyond.