Cat Wells . . . sound familiar? Or maybe you know her as Cathy-Ann Wells, or perhaps PHAT Betty from the days of Don Fraser’s original Blue Gator at the Prestige Inn, or from the Kelowna Blues Festivals in City Park.
Cat was the very first winner of the Scorpion Music Awards (now known as the Okanagan Music Awards) for vocalist of the year, and the only vocalist to be presented the award for two consecutive years. In the late 90's and early 2000's, it seems every time you opened a newspaper there was a photo and/or article about Cathy-Ann.
For those of you who don't know her, vocalist Cat Wells is a musical tour-de-force. Born in Toronto, she climbed out of the womb singing, and found early heroes in Etta James and Billie Holiday.
In her Okanagan heyday, Cat’s blues band, PHAT Betty, was the go-to opening act for touring AAA bands such as ZZ Top, Jeff Healey, Crash Test Dummies, etc..
Known for her homemade vibrant, and at times outlandish stage clothes, flowing mane of long blonde curls, and barefoot performances, what really caught you was her emotive vocal prowess. With her near 4-octave range, Cat would perform the sweetest Ella Fitzgerald jazz ballad, then, without a blink, belt out Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll with such conviction she'd give Robert Plant a run for his money.
We caught up with her via satellite Internet, bobbing around the Caribbean Ocean on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas.
"I made a move to Vernon about 10 years ago, and when I saw the live venues disappearing in the area I decided to pitch myself to Cruise lines. I've been performing on cruise ships in various positions. I started as a vocalist in a show band, moved to pub guitarist, and now I perform as a guest entertainer. I have a couple of shows that I perform but by far the most popular is my Janis Joplin tribute."
Cat thrills crowds with her uncanny impersonation of the 60's blues/rock artist Janis Joplin. Along with her ability to mimic Joplin's voice with her throaty blues style, Cat has paid close attention to every detail from costumes to moves and mannerisms, giving outstandingly memorable performances. She claims to have fallen into the role by accident.
”When I would perform with my blues band, fans kept asking for Janis Joplin. I admit I was annoyed at first, because I didn't understand what they were hearing/seeing. When I finally sat down and watched a video tape of Janis performing, I was amazed at how similar our performances were. I've always been able to somewhat mimic voices, so I began to study hers."
Cat has been performing as Janis Joplin for the past 15 years, but to date has never performed the entire show in her home town until now, with Move Over - The Ultimate Janis Joplin Experience.
"I've performed a song or two in costume, and had a bit part in the musical "Dem Crazy Blues” playing the role of Janis, but I realized I had never performed the entire show in the Okanagan. I reconnected with my friend and promoter Mike Schell of Schell Shock Entertainment, and we worked out a plan to bring the show to town in my down time.”
Cat is backed by some of the hottest musicians on the West Coast:
- Chip Hart on drums ~ War-Bad Company
- Dave Webb on keys ~ Harpdog Brown
- Lee Oliphant on bass ~ Les is More
- Don Peterson on guitar ~ Fast Forward
The show adds the Okanagan’s Uptown Hornz, horn section for Blues artist Sonny Rhodes to their Interior performances, creating an impressive 9-piece band:
- Mike Schell on trumpet/flugelhorn
- Chris Manuel on trombone/tuba
- Gordie Frie on baritone sax/tenor
- Sax Dean Bates on tenor sax/flute
Together they cover classic Joplin songs including Ball and Chain, Summertime, Mercedes Benz, Another Piece of My Heart, Me and Bobby McGee, and more.
"I'm both nervous and excited to bring this show to the Okanagan. Your home town fans are your most honest critics!" says Wells.
This is a must-see show for fans of Janis Joplin, the blues, psychedelic rock, and the sixties.
Move Over - The Ultimate Janis Joplin Experience is set for its Okanagan debut in three towns: Salmon Arm, Vernon and Lake Country.
Saturday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets available today at the Creekside Box Office, call 250.766.9309.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.