Gail Wynters Tribute on Red Barn Radio

Feb 23, 2021

Gail Wynters on the Red Barn Stage in 2013. Listen to the rebroadcast of this concert Saturday, Feb. 27th at 7:00p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 28th at 8:00p.m. on WEKU.
Credit Red Barn Radio

This week, Red Barn would like to pay tribute to Gail Wynters. Everyone at Red Barn Radio is saddened by the news of her passing. Gail was much loved, a generous and immensely talented and joyful performer who always elevated the songs she sang.

Her 2013 concert at Red Barn will be rebroadcast Sat.. Feb 27 at 7:00 p.m. and Sun., Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m. on WEKU. Below is a video clip of the performance.

Gail Wynters - BiographyNancy Gail Shivel first found her voice in her father’s Nazarene church in Ashland, Kentucky, belting out some impromptu blues one morning in the middle of Sunday services. The rest of the family were up front performing when the youngest, all of 18 months, decided it was time to join the family chorus. Later, when the family toured churches and singing conventions throughout the South, they were dubbed, the Shivel Family Singers with Gail - The Little Girl with the Built-in Speakers.Well known in the rural south, they toured in tent gospel shows, sang on the radio, and had a huge following in Kentucky, Tennessee and Huntington, West Virginia, just across the bridge from Ashland. Gail’s father, who sang bass with the family group, also sang on the radio with his seven brothers. A man of good taste, he loved singers and jazz music, and brought home records of Billie Holiday, Art Tatum and Fats Waller and what later became a major influence, The Golden Gate Quartet.She was wanted to sing with every band on campus at Kentucky University. The rock band wanted her, the rhythm and blues group and the jazz band featured her, and soon she became a major star in Lexington, regularly appearing at small jazz rooms and big country clubs. In the 50s, Stan Kenton wanted to take the teenage Gail on the road with his band. Her father refused to let her go. Nancy Gail was too young.Cal Collins, a well-known guitar player from Cincinnati heard Gail sing, hired her for his group, and began teaching her jazz standards. She explored Ellington, Gershwin, Arlen, Porter, Berlin and the great American song masters, and soon had a spreading reputation and steady work in Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia, as well as Kentucky.Word of her talent reached Nashville. Capitol signed her and tried to make her into another Brenda Lee. The six sides they produced were soon forgotten. Wesley Rose offered her a one-album contract on his own Hickory label, and produced Nancy Gail Shivel as if she were a cross between a southern Barbra Streisand and a white Gladys Knight. He called the album ‘A Girl For All Seasons,’ and renamed his young protege Gail Wynters.Married and the mother of two young boys, Gail became a housewife and occasional performer, working gigs in the region. She opened for and toured with Roy Orbison in a series of concerts that included a young Joe Cocker. But soon, New York beckoned and her marriage ended. In New York she was heard singing in a bar by record producer Paul Vance. He immediately produced an album highlighting Gail’s vocal power called ‘Let The Lady Sing!’ for RCA. It became an instant hit - a chart success for RCA in Billboard, Record World, Cashbox and Variety.She was booked into the Rainbow Grill with a sixteen-piece orchestra and received rave reviews from the New York critics. She was a guest star on many national television shows. Gail also shared billing on “The Palace,” a weekly TV show from Toronto hosted by Jack Jones, with Tony Bennett, Roberta Flack and Dionne Warwick.
Returning to New York, she discovered that there had been a major shake-up at RCA. The president and the head of A & R were replaced and the album was shelved for political reasons. Undaunted, Gail began working with small groups in clubs like the Village Gate and the Blue Note.

Gail will be deeply missed.

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