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Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders Star in FEVER the musical legacy of Miss Peggy Lee

There is only one instance when you would want a fever to descend upon an audience and that is the musical tribute by the same name to one hot singer-songwriter, Miss Peggy Lee.

Whether everyone present has heard her singular style or not, all who attend an event enlivened with the show, “Fever- A Tribute To Miss Peggy Lee,” will leave with an appreciation of her special talents. And that’s just what the show’s originators had in mind. Famed musician Buddy Greco’s and stunning singer Lezlie Anders’ objective is to celebrate the life and music of Peggy Lee with their audience.

The “Fever” show had been in the making for a few years but it is also about connections that started many years ago. After all, both Buddy Greco and Peggy Lee got an initial boost into their careers by performing with Benny Goodman. This show is very close to both Greco’s and Anders’ hearts. Buddy was a dear friend of Peggy Lee for a long time, which was his motivation for doing the show.

Lezlie Anders, Greco’s wife of eleven years, has been likened to Miss Lee in appearance and singing style. Likeness or not, Anders remarks,"What girl singer wouldn’t want to include Peggy Lee songs in her repertoire?"

Peggy Lee, originally Norma Egstrom from South Dakota, passed away in 2002. She was known for her sultry, alluring vocals which she adopted after successfully getting an audience’s attention in the days when she was just starting her singing career exploration. She was attempting to sing over a loud din in a club in Palm Springs. Then as soon as she lowered her singing voice, the whole room hushed and her style was born. Further along the way but not much, she was singing at the Buttery in Chicago. Benny Goodman was looking for a replacement singer when he happened into the club where Peggy was singing and she was hired essentially on the spot. She started her Goodman Tour with no rehearsals. Lee didn’t think of herself as a jazz singer but jazz musicians of the time, like Louis Armstrong, said she was because she knew how to swing. And knowing well how to swing, Greco and Anders carry her music into the present. From the first drum roll and sustained piano chords of the overture at the beginning of the show, to the melodic strands of "I’ll Be Seeing You" accompanying the bows at the end, listeners are transported, with the musical talents of Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders as guides, to a time when Peggy Lee was swinging on her star. But make no mistake, the show does not just harken to times past. Greco and Anders bring an ever so lively presence to the stage, with personable dialogue between the two, moving commentary about Lee, songs backed by the Benny Goodman Tribute Band, and an unforgettable light show, in the true Peggy Lee tradition. Lee herself admitted she "tried to approach singing as theatre, complete with lighting, staging and acting." And that’s what you get now, with the “Fever” show. Agent Bill Rezey describes it as, "a large show with a lot of production that doesn’t require much outside intervention. This show comes in, self-contained. Its sort of an all in one, all-inclusive show with a large orchestra, dancers, headliner Buddy Greco and the music of Peggy Lee."

Lezlie Anders brands each song with her own unique qualities, adding a fresh effervescence to the delivery of the lyrics. Listeners can feel the Peggy Lee easy swing driven as always with a suspended cadence, but with an Anders lilt and timbre. Of the twenty-six numbers, most are songs that had been written and/or sung by Peggy Lee, interspersed with Buddy Greco singing her songs or one of his hits like “The Lady Is A Tramp.” The flow from one song to another is a pleasant transition by way of Greco’s dynamic arrangements and the couple’s playful quips. For example, Greco talks about Peggy as one of the greats, but Lezlie sees her as the greatest female singer for what she contributed to music. Then some banter ensues to prove the point: What woman wrote the number of songs that she did? The "firsts" that contribute to making Peggy Lee the best were: first female singer-songwriter; first to isolate vocals in an isolation booth of a recording studio; used the first "board fade out" on “Manana” in 1948, diminishing the volume on the recording equipment to end the song. A great lyricist; an actress who wrote songs for movies. In all, she wrote about seven hundred songs. And so the audience is anecdotally educated too on the life of a great lady.

The songs in the show actually run in chronological order, starting with ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?” which Miss Lee first recorded with Benny Goodman in 1941. During the show the close associations Peggy Lee enjoyed with other artists are revisited in voice-overs by the likes of Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante and Cary Grant. They describe the Peggy they knew, her talents, her style, in their own words. These tributes segue into a song that explicates their
account. “Her regal presence is pure eloquence and charm," may have been the words of Frank Sinatra for Peggy Lee but Ms. Anders carries it off as well, with her own class, suave delivery of lyrics and stately stature as a performer.

The words of Benny Goodman are about Buddy Greco, who he introduces as‘the tough kid from Philly’ just as he did in 1951 when he hired him. Then Goodman says in the voice-over, he fired Buddy 22 times. "I used to drive him crazy," says Greco. An instance goes something like Goodman telling Greco to play like Teddy Wilson, Greco asks, “why don’t you fire me and hire Wilson?” Goodman does, then hires him back and gives him a $25 raise!

Greco’s history is legendary. He began playing the piano at age four and was taught by Joseph Cavalierie, who voluntarily nurtured many youths on to music careers from a settlement house in a poor neighborhood of south Philadelphia. By age 16, Greco was out on his own, playing and singing at a club in Philly. At age 18, he was discovered by Benny Goodman’s manager, who offered him a recording. Following a four year stint as pianist, singer/arranger with the Benny Goodman Band, Buddy’s career continued to soar. He went on to sell millions of records, received gold records for “Oh Look At Her Ain’t She Pretty,” “The Lady Is A Tramp” and “Around The World.” He has made 65 albums, 100 singles and is listed in the Encyclopedias of Great Musicians and of Great Jazz Singers and Musicians. He has performed music in genres from jazz, to pop, to country, in venues on stage, in film and on television.

At one time singer Lezlie Anders might have been attending a corporate event with fellow bankers, investors and brokers. In fact, she could be a poster child for women in Corporate America. She carved out a niche starting as the first woman loan officer hired by a major savings and loan in LA in 1978. Having gotten a real estate license, she also wrote up second deeds of trust and when a first trustee writer was needed there she was with the experience needed. She financed acquisitions and with a partner bought up airline and trucking businesses when they had spread themselves too thin. Her kids grew up to conversations around the dinner table about business. When they were grown, she quit and moved to Oregon where her mother lived, got a degree in music and formed her own big band, “The Roseland Orchestra.” Today the former divestiture specialist has returned to her roots as a musician. Distanced from her early rock and roll days, she has returned to the stage in style, which is where she first dazzled Buddy.

In fact, it was in 1992 when Lezlie was opening shows for Bob Newhart, Don Rickles and Greco. Buddy’s show, a two-week gig in Las Vegas, was the start of a courtship turned marriage and partnership turned music tours and shows that branch all over the world. Together, Greco and Anders caress each song in the “Fever Tribute” with reverence for Lee’s style. Buddy’s arrangements and Anders renditions compliment the star’s exciting life in rousing songs like “Manana,” “I’m A Woman” and “I’m Gonna Go Fishin'.” Then akin to Miss Lee’s reflections in her book of poems, Softly, With Feelings, there is a soothing reversal to “Mr. Wonderful” and “The Folks Who Live On The Hill.” Highlighting the show is the sultry signature song, “Fever,” for which Peggy Lee wrote special lyrics. For this number, Anders enters the stage in a cloud of fog, wearing a bright red gown accented with flames.

Other equally haunting melodies are intertwined throughout the show, such as “Is That All There Is?” giving a peek into Lee’s childhood memories, and “Golden Earrings.” Upbeat selections round out the show,“It Was Just One Of Those Things,” the resigned “Alright, OK, You Win” which is first sung by Greco then Anders, and the delightful “He’s a Tramp,” which Miss Lee wrote for the animated film, “Lady And The Tramp.” There are times in the performance when Danny Thomas’s words about Peggy Lee ring true of Ms. Anders: her stage presence is so sweet, there’s no cockiness about her. But she’s sure. That calm assurance comes through in Ander’s voice too.

In an interview with Anders from her and Buddy’s home outside of Las Vegas, Anders points out another connection worth mentioning in the current context. The show was first produced and recorded at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada. Now when a corporation buys this venue, they become patrons of the University of Las Vegas’ music department because 3% of profit goes to their Performing Arts Department, giving back just as the teacher Cavalierie gave to Greco and several other kids in that settlement house in Philadelphia.

Anders claims the show can be adapted for a large crowd or to a small group by adjusting the size of the band, with or without dancers, but with the lights, always the lights, six or seven costume changes,
Greco’s seasoned piano playing, and always the wealth of songs attributed to the talented Peggy Lee. Greco and Anders are looking to emerge into the corporate circuit with “Fever,” but continue to tour it and their other shows consistently. Buddy has his own jazz show backed by a quartet and Lezlie plays venues and clubs with her Lezlie Anders Orchestra. The Greco/Anders team has truly brought an exquisite show together. The songs are impeccably produced, easy on the ears, and do pay the highest tribute to a great singer and lady.

MEDIA ALERT ~ Buddy and Lezlie recently moved from their Las Vegas ranch to a beautiful home in Palm Springs, where together they purchased and renovated a supper club which they appropriately named "Buddy Greco's"

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