Gloria Larrieu

Gloria Larrieu

Gloria Larrieu spent years performing in and around West Michigan to the delight of concert and club patrons everywhere! Her repertoire is vast including a wonderful blend of the best songs from the 40's through the 90's! Her original's are unique and moving.

Gloria has performed throughout the state with Bob Rowe in nursing homes and senior facilities where the senior's love her for her beautiful voice, dynamic guitar playing and incredible personality!

She has also been featured on several recordings of Bob's including, "ONE HEART" and "LOVE SONG".

Currently she is working on her doctorate and teaching at The University of New Mexico and returning to Michigan to perform for the Renaissance "troupe" every chance possible.

 

The Famous Gloria Larrieu, of Kalamazoo
by Bob Rowe

I remember the first time I heard that unforgettable resonant voice, drifting out into the streets outside the old "Whistle-Stop," in Kalamazoo, MI, all those summers ago. It pulled me inside for a closer listen, though I didn't have the courage to say "hello" and introduce myself until many years later...

It wasn't because she wasn't friendly, in fact you could walk into just about any club in the area that featured Gloria Larrieu, on any given night of the week, and if you weren't immediately drawn in by the beauty of her voice and terrific guitar playing, you would be captivated by her hearty laughter and warm ways as she moved around the room and greeted anyone who showed any interest in what was going on.

For me there was magic in being able to slip into a club, late at night and listen to her play and sing for hours on end, always being transported away, yet inching closer inside to what it means to be human and to feel.

Maybe it was sometime in the late seventies when we became friends and helped each other get jobs around here and as far away as Kankakee, Illinois. But it wasn't until the early 1980's when our lives touched in a very real way and I began to realize what depth was inside of my friend...

She's had an interesting journey, right from her start in Benton Harbor, Michigan as Gloria Bennett. and, as a child growing up in Kalamazoo she studied bass and saxophone and sang in school choirs. Early on she developed a strong love of different types of music which carries on to this day. Her early influences were soul music and singers like Wilson Pickett, Gladys Knight and Donnie Hathaway. As a young lady she liked to hear live music in the clubs, often enjoying recognized performers such as Junior Walker, another Michigan Native.

For a time Gloria studied English at Western Michigan University and music too, however she wasn't too fond of the idea of becoming a teacher when she longed to entertain audiences instead, so she decided to drop out of college at that time.

In the late 60's she married Michael Larrieu, an artist who was in the air force at the time. The young couple moved to Montgomery Alabama where they lived until 1971, when they moved back to Kalamazoo to raise their young family.

It was a local friend and mentor who encouraged Gloria to perform publicly with her music in local clubs and coffee houses and she figured she could give it a try without interfering with her family life, which was a top priority of both her husband and herself.

In the seventies she worked at lounges in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, gaining a sizable following and a vast repertoire of songs, including some choice Irish ballads. I believe she has over 200 songs in her playlist today. including traditional folk music, classics, old standards, some light rock, pop, blues and jazz pieces.

In 1978, or "79, she was offered a full-time position entertaining at Chardonaise Restaurant in the Southland Mall, where she has performed regularly ever since (with time off recently to return to college in Albuquerque, NM). At Chardonaise she has been a favorite of everyone over the years and the New Years Eve celebrations there are some of the most memorable in town.

Gloria is one of the most diverse performers I've ever heard, and she says the reason for this is that she loves everything from opera to blues and jazz! She likes to consider herself a musical "Stylist," taking other people's songs and standards and making them her own. (If you've ever been fortunate enough to hear her live, you know that she can make any song her own and breathe life into some of the old, forgotten songs that we haven't heard in too long a time.'

She has been an enormous influence on me in my own performing career enabling me to become more comfortable with myself as an artist and enjoy my work and audience as much as possible. I know I will never forget the many times we've sung together, in private and in public, from Chardonaise to Kankakee, to Mickey's Place, in St. Joseph, MI., enjoying the audience and the long rides in the car.

Making music alone for an audience is magical but when you blend your voice with another performer who is on the same wavelength as you it can be heavenly. And technically speaking Gloria can weave her voice in and out of some of the toughest notes that I've ever heard. "Stylist" is an understatement for her technical ability.

She has recently returned to school, traveling out to Albuquerque, NM., to take up where she left off some time ago. And although she is thriving out there, her gain is our loss in Kalamazoo. However, Gloria will be returning to the area, for the summer, to perform at Chardonaise and other engagements for weekends through the summer months.

In 1988 I founded Renaissance Enterprises Co., to take professional artists and performers around to all the nursing homes and related care facilities, throughout the state of Michigan. Gloria Larrieu will be my special guest this summer. bringing "a ray of light" into the lives of our areas senior population, who I know, will enjoy hearing her again.

As I listen to Gloria's tape, "ALIVE AT CHARDONAISE," and remember so many great times of singing and sharing together, I feel so lucky to have met some of the extraordinary people who have graced my life and I recall the words to a poem of tribute I wrote some years back in honor of "The famous Gloria Larrieu of Kalamazoo..."

..."How I love the way your laughter echoes down empty hall ways and through empty places; And countless empty rooms have been blessed by the sound of your voice, my heart has been lifted by its beauty as well."

Bob Rowe


 

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Last modified: 09/28/14