From the reviews:
San Francisco's legendary vocalist celebrates Spring - and Judy Garland - with a stylish set of music
Veronica Klaus is deeply entrenched in the 1940s and 50s style of the last century. Her look, her style, her attitude and choice of music hail back to a glorious moment in American swing music. Peggy Lee is her main muse and Klaus couldn’t have made a finer selection. Backed by longtime collaborator Tammy Hall on the piano, swing songs like the suggestive Somebody Touched Me, I Wish I Were in Love Again or Why Don’t You Do Right (Get Me Some Money, Too) are deftly delivered. Her arrangement of the Smokey Robinson tune The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game is closer to the Jerry Garcia Bands slowed-down tempo than the original Marvelettes release and is a joy. Similarly, she re-invents Phoebe Snows Something Real into a heartfelt plea for emotional connection. Klaus’ flip side brings slow, sensual ballads, like Arthur Hamilton’s Rain Sometimes and Wait’ll It Happens to You, which she nails. Winner of a 2015 Bestie Cabaret Singer award, Klaus fans revel in her retro appeal and, with it, she educates contemporary audiences to the classics like Lee, June Christy, Billie Holiday and other greats. Job well done.
~ Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes
Veronica Klaus grew up in Gillespie IL, home of Black Diamond Days, the original festival of coal—population 3200—in a large middle class family, the youngest of 5 children. Her stepmother taught school, her father a manager at a grain elevator, and later a milkman. She spent most of her spare time at the church alone teaching herself to play piano and sing. Life would change with discovery of Bette Midler’s first album in the small public library, giving her a glimpse of something beyond her small town existence. Her earliest performances were in church, school musicals and in local productions by the community choir like the bicentennial spectacular The All American Review, and Mary Lou Newcomb Menzie’s Little Dance Theater, which were as hilariously close – in retrospect – to parody as you can come without intending it.
She graduated from U. of Illinois, with a degree in Music Education. There she began to search out recordings of jazz and blues artists such as Etta James, Etta Jones, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Scott, Billy Holliday, Bettye Lavette, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Varetta Dillard, Julia Lee, Martha Davis, and Nellie Lucher in the record stores, soaking up performances by legendary blues singer Koko Taylor at the Student Union, and attending the original Farm Aid Concert while being taught by renowned opera singer and professor William Warfield.
She moved to San Francisco in 1986 after school and began singing in clubs in 1989, her first official engagement at a store on Hayes St. called Modernology at the very first Hayes St. Fair. Soon after, she performed at Café Du Nord regularly with a trio or quartet singing swing and blues classics. In 1993 she began forming her Heart and Soul Revue – a 12-piece big band with horn section and background singers and shifting focus a bit to old-school soul, funk and blues. She performed material from Ike & Tina Turner, Big Maybelle, Bill Withers, and Gladys Knight, garnering fans and a won awards including the SF Weekly’s Whammie Award in 1995 for “Best Blues/R&B,” and a Cable Car Award for “Best Entertainer.”
After the big band project, she wanted to record with a smaller, more manageable configuration and went into the studio, working with recording engineer Jeff Mann at Komotion Studio to produce her first CD, ALL I WANT. It was released in 1997 and was nominated for a GLAMA Award in NYC for Best Female Artist and contained mostly original material; a mixture of pop, blues, torch and soul. Black Diamond Days is an original song that Veronica wrote about her experience growing up in a small town in the Midwest. Another song from that CD, Waiting For a Kiss, as well as an acting role by Veronica, have been recently featured in the theatrical movie release of The Stranger In Us, a feature film by director Scott Boswell. It was well received and has won audience awards at screenings and festivals around the world and is available on DVD.
Veronica has played many, many venues in SF over the years including a magical night at the Great American Music Hall in 1995, where she dragged her heart around – literally a 6ft. gold lame upholstered heart-shaped candy box on wheels with steps up the side and a seat at the top to sing The Staple Singers’ Why Am I Treated So Bad?. She was a staple in the early scene at clubs including Café Du Nord, Club 181, The Elbow Room and has performed at the Fillmore, and Slim’s, – once opening for the renowned Ohio Players!
She has worked with and performed for many charity and non-profit agencies over the years including Transgender Law Center and Rainbow World Fund, AIDS fundraising, benefits for progressive politicians and Marriage Equality, an organization for which she, in conjunction with Lucien Stern Presents, produced a lavish community fundraiser in 2003 Songs From the Scarlet Temple. Her second CD Veronica Klaus – Live at the Lodge was recorded the next year at a fundraiser for the LGBT Community based humanitarian aid organization Rainbow World Fund that she, again with Lucien Stern Presents, organized and produced. Live at the Lodge featured a big band with horns, harmony vocals and the talented Tammy Hall on piano as well as a duet with singer/songwriter Mark Weigel who also performed for the cause that night. About this time, Veronica was named “Best Chanteuse” by the SF Guardian, and the SF Weekly asked of its readers, “Quick! Who’s Catwoman, Jessica Rabbit and Vanessa Williams all rolled into one?”
Initially wanting her music to speak for itself, Veronica didn’t – aside from a knowing glance, a wink or double entendre—make her gender change a focus on stage, finding that her experience was usually reduced to a label like “transgendered singer.” However, with co-writer and director Jeffrey Hartgraves, Veronica found the opportunity to take her time to tell the story right and in her own words, writing Family Jewels – The Making of Veronica Klaus a full-length theatrical one-woman show with stories and songs, some original, elaborating with humor, poignancy and insight on her life, growing up, transition, becoming an artist with its romance and heartbreak – an “everything you always wanted to know about Veronica, but were afraid to ask” tour-de-force. It ran for three successive 6-week runs at The Exit Theater and Theater Rhinoceros and got rave reviews from audiences and critics. Music and excerpts from the show can be found on the soundtrack recording. Veronica played a 2-year residency on Tues. nights at the legendary North Beach club Enrico’s in 2009 and 2010.
After that engagement at Enrico’s, Veronica played regularly at The Rrazz Room in SF where she enjoyed large, enthusiastic crowds, especially for her acclaimed Peggy Lee songbook shows Lee a La V. In 2013, the Peggy Lee tribute show was a hit in NYC at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater with special guest, Joey Arias. In 2014, she released the recording Lee a La V to great reviews! In 2016, Veronica made a bold decision and, after 30 years in SF, purchased an 1850s Greek Revival Lutheran Church in Sharon, NY and has been refurbishing it for her home and eventually a small bed and breakfast. Adjoining Sharon Springs NY, well-known upstate as a haven for progressives and also as the home of the Beekman 1802 company, has welcomed her enthusiastically! She has produced concerts in her new home, as well as being involved in the local effort to renovate a 19th century Masonic Hall as the new Klinkhart Arts Center.
In 2018, Veronica began what she hopes will be an annual return to SF for concerts and reunion with her friends and fans.