Sister Swing is a trio of vocalists dedicated to fun and frivolity while preserving the vintage jazz sounds of the girl groups of the 1930s and 1940s. Whether they are singing swing, boogie woogie, ballads or 2 step, their sound is authentic and very much their own. They are backed by a powerhouse band of the finest and MOST cute musicians in Sacramento area. The band has humbly self-titled themselves "The Chopped Liver Orchestra" and yet, they are so much more than chopped liver.
The girls have been entertaining professionally for 20 years together, (yes, the same three women) but came from very different musical backgrounds before they met. Valerie, lead singer, honed her skills in top 40, Paula sang angelically in church and jazz groups, and Leigh cut her singing teeth performing classical and theater music in school. The story of how they actually met is something which can only be disclosed in dark places over drinks.
Sister Swing has had the honor of receiving the Best Swing Band from the Sacramento News and Review Magazine, Best of Sacramento in 2005, they've sung with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra as well as opened for the Glenn Miller orchestra. They had the distinct honor of singing for Bob Hope and his wife at the Wings Over Stockton Air Show. They love harmony, laughter, dressing up like Big Girls and just generally goofing off. Like most musicians, they wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they weren't making music and bringing it to other people. Thankfully, they haven't yet had to find out. Hugs and Kisses from the Sisters! XoXo
Valerie Marston (Lead Vocals)
When Valerie was a mischievous young girl, she would watch her mother stand at the kitchen sink and sing, “Oh sweet mystery at last I found you…”From then on Valerie realized that she could release a lot of anxiety and pent up energy by just singing it out.AND, get lots of attention to boot! Starting out in choir and band in the 4th grade, she played and sang her way through high school and right into junior college.Then it was time to drop out of school and join a rock and roll band. Valerie is a self-proclaimed “road scholar”. After playing in too many bars and traveling too many miles to find fame and fortune, she finally settled down to help form Sister Swing with her singing partners Paula and Leigh, and never looked back.This was a dream come true and a great ride for the last 20 years. This woman can cook a mean casserole too.
Pants Name: Ms. Scatty Pants
Paula Chafey-Merrill (Vocals)
Paula musical career started when she would harmonize with her father or mother when they sang the “Special Song” during church services. She continued on harmonizing with anyone and everyone who would sing lead, refusing to sing solos after a particularly scary wedding event. Paula sang in the Bethany High School mixed chorus and Choraliers, before crossing the street and singing with the Gospel Team and the choir at Southern Nazarene University….then crossing the same street after graduation to sing with the gospel group “Cross Section”. She later joined the Sisters of Swing out of Oklahoma City and, after arriving in Sacramento, met the other two warblers and now is very content singing the lowest harmony parts available.
Pants name: Ms. Fancy Pants
Leigh Hannah (Vocals)
Leigh started her musical journey early by taking up the popular and very sought-after instrument in 5th grade: french horn. She continued on with this unfortunate instrument choice all the way through high school, playing in marching band, pep band and concert band. Her senior year, she decided she didn't like the marching band uniforms any more and became a majorette, which was a lot more fun than playing stacatto notes on 2 and 4. Plus she got to wear boots and mini skirts. In college, while working on her english literature degree, she also studied music theory and voice at American River College and Sacramento State University, where she sang in jazz ensembles and chamber choirs.
She has sung at Carnegie Hall and in Ireland on live National Public Radio. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree 1995, and shortly before that is when she met her partners in crime and they formed the vocal trio Sister Swing.
Pants Name: Ms. Prancy Pants
Steve Wall (Guitar)
Steve clearly was born to have a guitar in his hands. As a dewey young senior in high school, he was already teaching advanced guitar classes to his peers. In 1980, he received his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Chico State, while touring with a funk and dance band called "Foothill Express" out of Chico. He has been playing guitar for 43 years, 38 of those years professionally. In 1982,he moved to Sacramento and toured with various bands such as Eddie and the Edsels, The Proof, and Firewater. In 1986 he was one of the founding members of the popular Sacramento rock band called "The Beer Dawgs." They continued to work their magic together until 2006, which is right around the time Sister Swing snapped him up. Unfortunately we have to share this talented man with other bands, but we are his favorite. He said so.
He has received 6 SAMMIE awards, including 2 for Best Guitarist. He is also a member of the SAMMIES Hall Of Fame and has played the national anthem at the Sacramento Kings and Rivercats games. He also comes with his very own fan club who will travel many miles just to watch him play. We love our Steve.
Pants Name: Mr. Panty Pants
Dave Johnson (Trumpet)
With over forty years experience as a professional musician and educator, Dave Johnson keeps in high demand as a freelance trumpeter in the greater Sacramento area. He currently performs regularly with Sister Swing, Creole Jazz Kings, The Rhythm Vandals, Dean-O-Holics, Harley White Jr. Orchestra, Frankie Soul and No Control Band, Gordon Groft, J Harrison B, George Bruno Big Band, High Class Brass Big Band, and his own group, Elite Swing. Mr. Johnson has held former trumpet chairs for The Nibblers, Wooden Nickel Jass Band, Bill Rase Big Band, Elk Grove First Baptist Church, The Fred Morgan Big Band, The Horn Dawgs horn section, The Mike Torres Band, The Coasters, and The Drifters while touring North America. Mr. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Trumpet Performance from California State University, Sacramento and is currently teaching private music lessons on woodwinds and brass in. In addition, he has taught band in the Elk Grove area and was Director of Youth Bands for the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society for the past twelve years. Mr. Johnson also works as a freelance composer, arranger, clinician, and recording artist.Some of Dave Johnson’s recording credits include; The San Francisco Forty Niners professional football team, Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, Gordon Groft, Sister Swing, Creole Jazz Kings, and the Wooden Nickel Jass Band, to name a few.
Dave Johnson also gives the best hugs on the planet. No lie. We wouldn't kid about something like that.
Pants Name: Mr. Blowy Pants
Bob Williams (Trombone)
Bob Williams, Trombonist Extraordinaire and the uncontested World's Most Modest Man, graduated from High School in Modesto California, way back in the 20th Century. While working as a bartender and Pizza Schlep at the Round Table Pizza on Tully Road, he met a friendly beer delivery man named Deck Hogin, who enjoyed a secret life as a popular local jazz musician, and who became Bob's mentor.
In 1988 or so, after several life missteps (not his last), Bob became involved with the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society, and enjoyed tenures with Gene Berthelsen's "CatsnJammer Jazz Band," and Stan Mark's "River City Stomperz." He formed the very popular "Wooden Nickel Jass Band," which enjoyed considerable success on the festival jazz circuit during its 10-year existence.
Although Bob's favorite style is traditional jazz, he also performs competently in big bands, classical ensembles, rock bands, salsa bands, and jazz combos. He is classically trained, and while he might not "read fly sh*t," he reads surprisingly well and has an excellent game face; he makes it look like the mistakes were SUPPOSED to be there. Really, just a consummate professional. In addition to Sister Swing, Bob also plays regularly with the Fulton Street Jazz Band, popular Steely Dan tribute band "Steelin' Dan,' and is on the top-27 lists of trombone subs for most local Dixieland bands.
He owns his own tuxedo. It's not pretty, but who's going to notice all the way up there on stage?
He becomes affable when you buy him a beer.
Pants Name: Mr. Smarty Pants
Ron Jones (Drums)
A self-taught natural talent, Ron Jones began playing drums at age 11, and by the age of 14was pIaying professionally in his home state of Delaware, as well as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His high school years included two years in the Delaware All State Band. After high school, Ron moved to Iowa, where he quickly found work in local bands in the Iowa/Illinois area.
At 21, Ron enlisted in the Air Force and became a jet mechanic, but continued to play in local bands wherever he was stationed. In 1972 he was sent to Anchorage, AK where he switched from jet mechanic to drummer in the Alaskan Air Command Band. He continued to play in Air Force show bands for nearly nine years, an experience that, he says, "provided great training for a musician. " On several occasions, Ron was named Top Instrumental Soloist in the Air Force's annual "Tops In Blue" talent show. Ron retired from the Air Force in 1988, but continued to play in all kinds of bands, from country to Big Band to jazz combos. Over the years he has backed up many top name entertainers, including Frankie Laine, Maxine Sullivan, Kay Starr, the Ink Spots, Ed Ames, Anita O'Day, the Pied Pipers, and Diahann Carroll to name just a few. Since his move to Sacramento, California in the early 1980s, his drums have been heard in many top West Coast jazz bands. A familiar face on the jazz festival circuit, Ron is known for his smile and obvious enjoyment in playing, which reflect his belief that music brings people together.
The fact that he owns one of the most amazingly well-stocked home bars in Sacramento also makes him extremely popular with the Sacramento musicians and music lovers alike.
Pants name: Mr. Happy Pants
Here's what we can tell you about Otis Mourning: Just listen to him play.
Pants Name: Mr. Spooky Pants
Alan Parks (Bass)
Alan K. Parks, undisputed and absolute darling of the group, has been playing bass since 1975, which is quite impressive until you realize that he wasn't very good for a few years. Shortly thereafter he started studying tuba as well, and thanks to the magic of practice and innate talent, he honed his craft fairly quickly.
After graduating from high school in 1981, Alan started a dixieland band with his best friend playing banjo. That band evolved into a swing band with Alan playing bass more than tuba. That band continues to this day playing a mix of swing, jump blues and rockabilly.
Currently, Alan plays as a full time professional in several bands throughout Northern California in various styles such as R&B, Hawiian and jazz; rockabilly being a specialty. He plays electric bass as well as upright, and continues to play tuba when he can. (There's not a lot of work for tuba players.) Alan also teaches private students who themselves don't practice enough.
Alan is a native of Napa, CA, and currently lives there with his wife and three daughters. His favorite color is red, and he would like to be reincarnated as a hedgehog.