A showbiz career filled with variety

Vancouver’s Michael Redman Jr. has performed with Elvis, Sinatra

Published:

 

On the Web:

Learn more about Vancouver entertainer Michael Redman Jr. at http://www.michaelredman.net.

From the two Steinway pianos in their living room to framed concert tour posters to Piccolo, their 16-year-old dachshund, everything in the Redmans’ Fisher’s Landing home revolves around music.

Music first brought Michael Redman Jr. and Cinda Goold Redman together, and it’s a shared passion that’s anchored their 42-year marriage as they navigated Hollywood show business while raising a family. The Redmans have been settled in Vancouver since 1989 but have always kept one foot in Hollywood.

Michael is best-known for singing on television variety shows and music specials from the late 1960s through the early ’80s. He performed and recorded with everyone from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra. He still gets recognized occasionally from his days on “Donny & Marie,” “Johnny Mann’s Stand Up and Cheer” and “The Lawrence Welk Show.”

“I was part of a musical dynasty that doesn’t exist anymore,” Redman said. “I was part of the golden era of television music specials and variety shows.”

Cinda is a pianist who also worked as a studio singer in Los Angeles earlier in her career. Now she’s a piano teacher and performer, and recently embarked on a European tour with fellow Vancouver pianist Lena Vozheiko Wheaton to give concerts in France and Austria.

Running in the family

Given their roots, it seemed predestined that Michael and Cinda would become musicians and build a musical family together. Michael grew up in Beaverton, Ore., with a mother and father who both sang. He started studying voice, tap dancing, trumpet and French horn at a young age. He would sing as payment for the family’s haircuts and shoe shines.

“So I was a professional from the time I could stand up,” he said.

Cinda spent her first years in eastern Washington and moved to Camas when she was 4. Her family lived there until she was 13, while her father served as principal of Camas High School. Then they moved to California. Like Michael’s kin, Cinda’s family has a musical background. Her mother is a singer and pianist, and her grandfather was an organist.

The Redmans, both 65, met at the University of Southern California, where Cinda majored in piano performance and Michael in Spanish. His roommate set them up on a blind date, and from the beginning, music played a central role in the relationship.

“When we first started dating, his car didn’t have a radio, so we would sing,” Cinda recalled. Their first date was to a campus concert by her piano teacher.

After graduation, both Cinda and Michael began working toward master’s degrees, but Michael soon found himself pulled away from academia and toward show business.

Big break

Throughout college, Michael lent his tenor voice to a group that performed Broadway songs at parties and conventions across the West Coast. The head of that group, an NBC executive, told Michael that “The Dean Martin Show” was looking for backup singers. Michael and his two USC roommates all auditioned and scored jobs.

Michael worked on “The Dean Martin Show” for a few months in 1968. Then “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” another variety show, recruited him. He worked with Tom and Dick Smothers for a year before joining “The Red Skelton Hour” in the fall of 1969 for a year.

In addition to performing on those variety shows, Michael worked as a studio singer for commercials, television specials, movies and records. He also went on the road, touring with Elvis for a week in the fall of 1970. Michael sang backup and served as part of Elvis’ opening act.

“Elvis was fun, friendly, healthy and professional, with a good sense of humor,” Michael said. “He loved to kid and tease his audience. He was a tremendous showman.”

With “The Red Skelton Hour” ending, Michael began looking for his next opportunity. He connected with arranger, composer and music director Johnny Mann and worked with him on “So Proudly We Hail.” That patriotic TV special turned into the series “Johnny Mann’s Stand Up and Cheer,” which Michael worked on from 1971 to ’74. It was a nice change after bouncing from show to show for several years.

“Three years is a nice, long run,” he said.

It was on “Stand Up and Cheer” that Michael met “The Brady Bunch” actress and singer Florence Henderson. After “Stand Up and Cheer” ended, he toured with Henderson as a backup singer and dancer for two years. Michael also performed on a number of TV specials and recordings in the mid- to late ’70s with stars including Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Bob Hope, Perry Como, Carol Burnett, Julie Andrews and Johnny Mathis.

Star encounters

As Michael worked the variety TV show circuit and established himself as a singer and dancer, Cinda was doing graduate studies at USC, where she also taught lessons and performed in a piano trio. She also sang on commercials and television specials and served as an audience coordinator for Dick Clark's American Music Awards for several years.

Cinda also worked as a secretary for game show host Allen Ludden in the mid-’70s, which gave her a chance to meet actress Betty White, Ludden’s wife.

The job had another perk: Cinda frequently spoke to her idol, Fred Astaire, on the phone. Astaire enjoyed Ludden’s show “Password” and would call often to discuss which passwords he liked and which he didn’t. As Ludden’s secretary, Cinda fielded those calls.

Cinda isn’t often starstruck, but those phone calls were thrilling.

“I adore Fred Astaire,” she said.

The Welk family

Michael once rendered a star star-struck. He appeared on “Donny & Marie” from 1977-1980. When he, Cinda and their two daughters saw Marie Osmond at a performance years later, she confided that she’d had a crush on Michael as a teenager.

“The girls said, ‘Ewww! Dad?’” Cinda laughed.

Cinda and Michael started their family in 1978, and they would have left Hollywood after “Donny & Marie” if not for a call from Gail Farrell, a performer on “The Lawrence Welk Show,” asking Michael to join her and her husband, Ron Anderson, in a trio. They auditioned for Welk with a couple of the band leader’s favorite songs, including the Como hit “And I Love You So.”

The trio impressed Welk and his producers, so Michael joined the show for its final two seasons, from 1980 to 1982.

“It was the time of my life. It was a career highlight,” he said. “These were wonderful people to work with, Gail and Ron. The entire cast was a great group of people. Lawrence referred to it as his musical family, and we were a family.”

As with any clan, there were Welk family gatherings. At one such event, a luncheon organized by the show’s Champagne Lady, Norma Zimmer, Cinda hatched the idea for a book featuring recipes from the show’s stars.

“On my way home, I thought, ‘I bet there are a lot of women out there who would love to have Norma Zimmer’s chicken salad recipe,’” Cinda said.

So she put together a book, “Recipes for Remembrance,” with help from writer Jo Berry, that compiled favorite recipes from cast members, along with anecdotes and photos. The book first came out in 1984 and is still in print today.

One era to another

The conclusion of “The Lawrence Welk Show” marked the end of the television variety show era and the beginning of a new direction for the Redmans. Grammy-winning Supersax & L.A. Voices asked Michael to join their jazz group. He toured with the group internationally throughout the mid- to late 1980s.

He also jumped into acting in the ’80s. He appeared in a pilot for a New Zealand sitcom called “The Cleaning Company,” which didn’t get picked up, and in a couple episodes of “Highway to Heaven.”

After “The Lawrence Welk Show,” though, much of Michael’s television and film work shifted off-camera, to the studio. He sang background vocals on cartoons, including “The Yogi Bear Show,” “The Flintstones” and “Pound Puppies” and in such Disney movies as “The Little Mermaid.”

By this time, the Redmans were ready to leave Los Angeles. They had a cabin on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, and both had family in the area. So in 1989 they relocated to Vancouver. But leaving Hollywood didn’t mean leaving show business.

Soon after they moved, daughters Jennifer and Melissa were invited to sing for the movie “Home Alone,” so the family headed back to Los Angeles for that job. All four Redmans — Michael, Cinda, Jennifer and Melissa — traveled back to Los Angeles shortly after the “Home Alone” gig to work as studio singers for the 1991 Disney film “Perfect Harmony.”

Back in the Northwest, Cinda and Michael began stepping in front of the camera for Oregon Public Broadcasting. The couple hosted televised pledge drives for OPB for more than a decade. Michael continues to work as a fundraising consultant through his Vancouver-based company, Michael Redman Productions, which develops, produces and distributes television and film programming. He also is working to build his talent management business. Singer and actor Pat Boone is a client.

Around the time he began working with OPB, Michael also connected with a Crew-Cuts tribute group, and toured with them throughout North America for 10 years. The Crew-Cuts were a Canadian vocal quartet from the 1950s best known for their cover of “Sh-Boom.”

Two years ago, Michael joined his current group, The Four Preps, which started in the 1950s and was made famous by such hits as “26 Miles” and “Big Man.” The current incarnation of the group includes its original lead singer, Bruce Belland.

Michael continues to travel nationally with The Four Preps. He travels to Los Angeles once or twice a month for studio work that recently has included singing background vocals on 2008’s “Get Smart” and “Horton Hears a Who!”

Though their résumés and family photo albums are filled with famous names and faces, Michael and Cinda don’t take their success in show business, a notoriously fickle industry, for granted.

“I really look at my life as having been very fortunate and blessed,” Michael said. “I had parents and teachers who encouraged me to take advantage of the talents God gave me and go as far as I could.”

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.