WhenCarol Lockridge moved to Fort Wayne in 1999 the Summit City became far richer,stealing a great blues vocalist and natural musician away from Detroit,Michigan. But neither Fort Wayne nor Carol herself could have imagined howwelcoming the Hoosier state would be in the years to come.Lockridgewas clearly born to share music with an audience. A glimpse of her innate skillcomes in her web biography which heralds the first moment her budding musicalbrilliance became apparent:
"Carolactually started singing and playing the piano at the age of 3. As the storygoes, Carol's mom was in the kitchen cooking, and little 3-year-old Carol wasin the living room alone. Mom was listening out for her daughter when she heardthe piano playing the song 'My Country Tis Of Thee,' no mistakes, and with thesound of only one finger. Mom called out to her and asked, 'Carol, who is thatin there with you?' Carol said, 'Nobody.' Mom said 'You're trying to play atrick on me aren't you? If nobody's in there with you, then who is that on thepiano?' Little Carol simply said, 'Me.' Not wanting to believe her little3-year-old daughter was not trying to play a trick on her, Mom comes out of thekitchen and into the living room to see. No one but little Carol is there, justlike she told her mom. Mom, still not quite believing her, says, 'Well, if thatwas you on the piano playing that song, then I want to hear you do it again!'To her mom's surprise, she did it again, with no mistakes."
Fromthere, Lockridge found opportunities to share her talents and expand on them inMichigan churches. Along the way she worked with many of the talented musicianswho have put Detroit on the musical map, a city that has provided numerouslegendary musicians from rock to soul, but also the blues, which Lockridge wasquickly embracing.
Whenshe moved to Fort Wayne eight years ago, though, Lockridge wasn't immediatelyimpressed, having been used to the busy, active and musically adventurous surroundingsof her hometown.
"Ithought this was a dead little town," recalls Lockridge. "I didn't know. Ithought it was one of those small cities where everybody knows everybody, andeverybody knows everybody's business. I was used to Detroit with all the jazzand blues."
Althoughshe kept busy as a school bus driver upon her arrival, her musicalopportunities weren't immediately apparent to her.
"Iwas getting bored," she says. "I got a job here, so I was moving around anddoing stuff. Then a friend of mine told me to come over for karaoke at theGrand Saloon. It was on Friday mornings, so after getting the kids to school Icould go over there."
Thatunlikely launching point put Lockridge back in her realm: performing regularlyin front of an appreciative audience. Then she was tipped off to an even betteropportunity - performing live on a stage at Legion Post 148. MusiciansBob Green and Kenny Flye were looking for a singer, and Lockridge decided togive it a shot. Given her prior experience, the audition proved surprisinglydifficult.
"Theyjust wanted to see how I sounded, but for some reason I was so shy. It was hardto get anything going. But they asked me to sing 'Stormy Monday,' and afterwardI was hired on the spot."
Itdidn't take long for her to overcome that initial timidity, however, and she'sfelt as at ease on Indiana stages ever since.
"Itwas a lot different," says Lockridge, remembering her first time on the Legionstage. "I didn't know anybody. I was looking around and didn't know if anyonewas going to be throwing chicken at me or what was going to happen. But once Iopened my mouth and that first note came out, I was fine."
She'sbeen fine ever since, too, and has taken the stage at an amazing array of localvenues and establishments, including Bill's Bistro (now Mid City Grill), Post148 Legion, New Haven Eagles, 469 Club, the Side Pocket, The Gin Mill, Hall'sTriangle Park, Mickey and Billy's, AJ's Bar & Grille, Deer Park, Curly's,Henry's, The Green Frog, Piere's, Ernie's Steak House, The Dawg House, The BluTomato, Higher Grounds, The Firefly, Chevvy's, the Office Tavern, Strazlos, TheVFW, Hall's Factory and Hall's Guesthouse. She has also been performingregularly in Indianapolis and Bloomington, earning herself a growing reputationwith blues fans of all ages, including many young admirers from IndianaUniversity. When she plays in the southern parts of the stage, she oftenperforms with her band, billing herself as Carol Lockridge and Friends. Those"friends" include Tadas Paegle on guitar, Bruce Lockwood on bass, Pete Premo ondrums and Doc Malone on harp.
"Iwant to say, too, that Doc Malone isn't called that because he plays theharmonica," says Lockridge. "He's called that because he's a doctor. When I getsick, I call Doc Malone because he's an actual doctor!"
Herband seldom plays in the Fort Wayne area, unfortunately, for primarily monetaryreasons. Lockridge hopes to bring them up north at some point, but she concedesthat the money is seldom there to take them far out of town, since the bandcalls the southern part of the state home. She also hopes to record more in thefuture. While she records at Monastic Chambers and has appeared on various CDs,including an Al Stiles production a couple years back (which featured her onthree cuts), the singer-songwriter is working on material of her own with aneye toward eventually recording her own CD.
Lockridgenow appreciates the irony of her early impressions of Fort Wayne, since herfirst assumption that it was a "dead little town" led her to abandon performingfor awhile. In truth, Indiana has allowed her to spread her wings, providingher with a more appreciative audience when she performs.
"Ialways took myself serious," she says, "and I was working with so many big namestars in Detroit. But even though I had beaucoup, beaucoup stuff going on,nobody there would take me serious. Detroit is so big that it's a battle to beheard. It wasn't until I got to Fort Wayne and discovered the music scene thatanyone but me took me seriously."
Proofof that statement is that Carol Lockridge and Friends claimed top honors lastNovember at the Indiana Blues Challenge, and, while they didn't win theInternational Blues Challenge in Memphis this past February, they were in therunning and have made themselves known to the top talent evaluators in thecountry. With numerous dates upcoming throughout the state (including Augustshows at Triangle Park), Lockridge can show people throughout Indiana why theyearned a shot at Beale Street glory.
Lockridge'smusical journey is coming full circle in one very significant way. Her mother,the woman who first appreciated and encouraged her daughter's special talents,recently passed away, leaving Carol to claim an important piece of her history:the piano she first played at the tender age of three. Now Carol Lockridge andher first musical instrument will have found a happy home in Fort Wayne,to the benefit of blues fans throughout the area.
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