Gio and Friends delight Destination patrons

Reliving the songs of the 40s and 50s brings folks downtown

Chris Smith / The Valley Chronicle
The crowd in the Destination Coffee Bar and Bistro was mesmerized Friday night, Nov. 16, by Gio and Friends, a singing group comprised of Gio Yepremian, Bonita Cummins and Rusty Strait, who gave patrons a selection of jazz and blues favorites dating back to the 1940s.

■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor

The nostalgia was so thick you could cut it with a knife Friday night when Gio and Friends took to the stage in the Destination Coffee Bar and Bistro.
It’s a funny little stage that was set up in the corner of the coffee shop and one that you might not want to navigate in high heels as a couple of the singers discovered, but it gets the job done by putting the singer up high enough for everyone in the room to see and hear remarkably well.
My date and I arrived fashionably late – about 6:45 p.m. – but we almost didn’t get a seat! Rusty (Strait) was blowing up my phone texting, “Where are you? Where are you?” to the point that we almost got a speeding ticket driving down Florida. There were two spaces left in the parking lot and one table with two chairs left in the dining area – and that was it! The place was full. We arrived as Gio Yepremian was belting out a rendition of Dream a Little Dream of Me, an old Ella Fitzgerald song that has been done a number of times by many artists including the Mamas and the Papas back in 1968.

• Stars shining bright above you
• Night breezes seem to whisper “I love you”
• Birds singing in the sycamore trees
• Dream a little dream of me

It’s a great song, and to hear Gio Yepremian sing it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck
Originally recorded in 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and at about the same time by Ernie Birchill with Wayne King and His Orchestra, the song later was a signature tune of Kate Smith. By the summer of 1950, no fewer than seven recordings of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” were in release. There were versions by Frankie Laine, Jack Owens, Cathy Mastice, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Jordan, Vaughn Monroe, Dinah Shore and a duet by Bing Crosby and Georgia Gibbs. Other versions were sung by Louis Armstrong, Barbara Carroll, Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Joni James, and Dean Martin.
Another one of Gio’s Friends, Bonita Cummins, is a blues and soul singer, who happens to be an advertising sales representative for The Valley Chronicle / Easy Ad, got up on stage and sang a variety of tunes including, My Valentine, Get Here, and Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me. The latter is a Gladys Knight song that was also recorded by Andy Williams in 1962, The Persuaders, Dean Martin, and Ray Price. Bonita finished up with, Always on My Mind, a great Willie Nelson tune.

Courtesy Diamond Valley Arts Council
Geo and Friends will be giving another free performance Friday, Dec. 7, at Destination and a benefit concert on Dec. 1 at the Diamond Valley Arts Center, 123 N. Harvard St.

The man of the hour, our own Rusty Strait, Senior Reporter for The Valley Chronicle, has had a varied career during his 94 years, and, among other talents is that he’s a “professional” singer! His complete repertoire includes over 3,000 songs that he has committed to memory. And while he may not sound the way he did when he was 19, ol’ Rusty can still get the job done. He got round after round of applause from the audience who secretly hoped they would have enough spunk at 94 to get up in front of an audience and belt out a song.
Rusty sang the classic Frank Sinatra tune, South of the Border (Down Mexico Way), which was an old Gene Autry favorite back in 1939. He then did a rendition of, Have I Told You Lately (That I Love You), which rocketed to fame in Rod Stewart’s Vagabond Heart album in 1991. Van Morrison also did a version on his Avalon Sunset album in 1989.
Rusty also sang Blue Moon, which got the audience lip syncing if not joining right in with him. But my favorite was the Fats Domino tune, Blueberry Hill:

• The wind in the willow played
• Love’s sweet melody
• But all of those vows you made
• Were never to be

Who could ever forget those lyrics?
On one of the song’s online comment boards, a gentleman named Barry from Sauquoit, New York, wrote: “On February 15, 1957, in Pittsburgh, PA the ‘Greatest Show of 1957’ rock tour debut(ed)…Fats Domino was one of the performers and at the time his “Blue Monday” {at #10} and “Blueberry Hill” {at #21} were on Billboard’s Top 100 chart…And what a show it must have been; also appearing were Chuck Berry, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter, Five Satins, Moonglows, and Bill Doggett.” Thank you Barry for that little bit of rock ‘n roll history.
For those who love old tunes, especially old blues tunes, be sure to catch Gio Yepremian and Friends again on Dec. 7 at Destination Coffee Shop.
Gio has a special event planned in Hemet’s historic downtown Dec. 1 to raise funds for The Diamond Valley Arts Center. Gio’s performance is titled, “Music Through the Decades a musical journey highlighting how music influenced the American way of life.” Joining her will be Dave Wendels, Brittany Engle, Tom Catanzaro and the Not of the World Dance Studio.
The fun part about this event is that patrons are encouraged to come dressed in their favorite decade attire qualifying them to win one of a number of great prizes.
The event promises to be a brilliant night of music and performance to support DVAC and its programs. The event will be held at DVAC, and doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 7 p.m.
General admission is $25, DVAC members are $20 and students $10. Package deals for an entire table receive 25 percent off online. All tickets are available at (DVAC members receive their discount online at checkout using coupon code), or by stopping at DVAC center Wednesdays – Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., and will be available at the door Dec. 1. Wine and other beverages will be for sale.

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