Beat Brew Hall
13 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138
Date Idea, Drinks, Food, Music
Toni Lynn first took the stage in Boston where, after sneaking past the door of as many clubs as she could (being underage at the time), she was soon wowing musicians and audiences all over the city. She had, of course, been doing this for quite some time, until one fateful night, when she proceeded to bring the house down with her performance of Ruth Brown's "5, 10, 15 (Hours Of Your Love)". Only this time, Mom was in the house! But the "buzz" had already begun.
Marriage at 18, to a military man, soon found our heroine in New Orleans. Once settled, she befriended, worked with and opened for such blues/soul legends as Jackie Wilson, Johnny Adams, Big Joe Turner, Sam and Dave and Bobby Blue Bland. She worked regularly in clubs all over New Orleans and soon found herself traveling more and more.
Her early recordings for Kon-Tiki (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records) produced the moderately successful single "Dear Diary" and a truly heartfelt version of the ballad "Satisfaction". Interestingly, the "B" side to "Satisfaction" was an early version of "Good Things", which forty years later is the title track of her latest Tone Cool CD. A military transfer brought her young family to a still-segregated Pensacola, Florida, far from her Crescent City ties. She managed to find a few regional bookings, which would not take her away from her family for too long. And she actually fronted a 35 piece, Military Band that performed at many high-profile events and eventually led to a few USO tours.
A few moves and a few groups later, Toni found herself in Hollywood. Almost immediately upon her arrival, she secured representation, and became the sole female in a Fifth Dimension-esque group called Sound 70 (The Sounds of the Seventies). Travel with this band took her all over the country and world, and even led to television appearances on such popular shows as those hosted by the likes of Steve Allen and Mike Douglas. Yet, in the eight years she worked with them, Toni became increasingly discouraged. Constant touring took her away from her young family at a time when they probably needed each other most. It also removed her from the Hollywood base that might have garnered more opportunities for her, yet ultimately yielded just one unreleased pop record. The breakup of Sound 70, a move to the East Coast and a short stint with some ex-Raelettes solidified her disenchantment. She felt there was no real future for her, no "Big Time", like the friends she had left behind in New Orleans were beginning to experience in the burgeoning Soul and R&B genres.
With her professional life seemingly in limbo, and no upswing in sight, she moved back to Boston in the early 80's and got a 9 to 5 office job so that she could provide for her family. The need to entertain was not out of her system, of course, and she sat in with a number of local artists, including jazz vocalist Eula Lawrence, who was moved by her remarkably emotive voice, and wondered where this talent had been hiding herself?
Compliments and mutual respect became introductions, which soon yielded more and more freelance work with local jazz groups whenever the opportunity arose. During this period, Toni performed at virtually every music room in Boston. But the yearning to perform her own songs in her own style was growing greater. Toni soon gained the opportunity to sing the blues she so loved, as front woman of Boston Baked Blues. This provided her introduction to blues audiences all over the Northeast, and she was warmly embraced by players and listeners alike. Musically, things were starting to feel like home again.
After a few successful years with BBB, Toni began to feel the need for a change. Her creative juices were flowing again, and she wanted more of an opportunity to write and collaborate. She needed to sing songs that she chose herself and were arranged for her. It was time for her to, once again, chase her dream. She made the break, with no ill will, from Boston Baked Blues, and with the help of BBB band mate Bruce Bears as her musical director and keyboardist, she formed her own band. She and Bruce called upon members of Boston's richly talented music scene for players, and approached musicians who seemed most likely to "get her to" the sound she wanted.