Community News

Sisters’ Musical Tribute to Dad Celebrates good times at Irish Pub

by: Kelli Lewis
Posted: August 14, 2017

HUNTINGTON BEACH...In a new CD straight from the heart, sisters Wendi Kilman and Kelli Lewis of “The Boyz and the Beez,” pay musical tribute to their late dad with two songs that celebrate his favorite place to throw back an IPA: Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Santa Cruz.

“Road to Rosie McCann,” a bluegrass song on the CD was already partly penned by their dad Fred Sherry Smith last year as an ode to the pub he loved.

But Fred, 86, died unexpectedly in December - never having completed the piece - so when Wendi found the lyrics on his desk, she decided to finish them, admitting she was worried about “doing them justice.”

Another song on the CD about the pub, “Thirty-two Steps to Rosie McCann's,” was written by Kelli before Fred’s death and was actually the inspiration for him to start writing his song about the pub.

The sisters, female vocalists from the “Boyz and the Beez,” have delighted live audiences in Southern California with their swing music for years.  Kelli lives in Huntington Beach and Wendi in Costa Mesa.

This latest CD, entitled, “Shoe Tree” is a gift to their dad, an extraordinary singer, musician and human being.

Wendi said even though she’s not a songwriter, the words to complete the song flowed as if Fred were sending them her way.

The playful, catchy song is about Fred “training” so he can continue to walk up those 32 steps to the pub drink for a drink, to meet his friend Mike, socialize and delight in the portrait of a pretty woman who looks like Jane Seymour.

A sample of the upbeat lyrics: “It’s a big long bar in Santa Cruz, I don’t go for the food, I go for the booze. I’ve been a looong, looong time on the Road to Rosie McCann… climb 32 steps if I have to crawl.”

One of Wendi’s favorite lines of blended dad and daughter lyrics from the song:
“It’s great to be alive I often say. Think I’m gonna have another IPA. Looong, looong time on the road to Rosie McCann.”

Wendi said her dad, “Never stopped getting excited about music and making himself better…He’d always say, “I’ve got a new goal.”

Daughter Kelli said she was always intrigued by her dad’s stories of being in the music business and performing on television and in movies during the1950s.

Fred, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, who as a child sang in movies, got his first big break in 1952 when he won the Horace Heidt national radio contest with an impeccable rendition of Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” He was a tenor with a crisp, velvety voice.

Wendi remembers bringing his recording from the Horace Heidt show into second-grade show and tell and puzzling her 7-year-old class mates who had stuffed animals and slingshots to share. It seemed so natural to Wendi because music was always such a part of the household.

In the 1950s after winning the competition, Fred launched his career with the Jones Boys quartet. The group would come to open for the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, as well as make appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfried shows.

Later in the 1950s, Fred became a studio singer, working with Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Andre Previn, Shelly Mann, Peggy Lee.

Fred often let his music meet his humor by picking up any instrument for an impromptu number at home. Kelli remembers that every year on the day she and her sisters and brother returned to school after summer vacation, Fred pulled out his upright bass and from the front lawn belted out, “Happy Days are Here Again.”

He left the full-time music business to open a lighting store after marrying and having four children.

But he never stopped singing and performing.

The CD is called “Shoe Tree,” because Fred became known in his Northern California community for nailing old boots and other footwear to a tree on his property, rather than see them wasted. There is also an original song on the new CD, about the tree, “Dad's Shoe Tree,” written by Kelli. It’s a catchy upbeat tune that brings a smile to listeners.

Before Fred passed he knew his daughters were going to record a “Shoe Tree” CD and expected to see both he and Kelli’s songs featured. His name will remain as the songwriter, but Wendi’s name will be there too.

Kelli says of her dad, “He taught me you’re never too old to do what you want to do."
'Shoe Tree' by Boyz and the Beez is available online through quality digital music retailers now.

Please visit: www.boyzandthebeez.com


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