Jeanne Arland Peterson is the grande dame of Minnesota jazz. Not only has she raised five children who are professional musicians, but she has amassed Minnesota Music Hall of Fame-worthy credits.
- 22 years in WCCO Radio's house band, led by her late husband, Willie.
- Three years as the Minnesota Twins organist.
- Performances with jazz stars George Benson, Sonny Stitt and Roy Eldridge, and entertainers Bob Hope, Perry Como and Red Skelton.
- Six albums in print (2009's "88 Grand" is her most recent, and it is grand).
As she prepared for her 90th birthday concert Sunday at the Old Log Theater, we asked Peterson and her kids to share some musical memories.
JEANNE ARLAND PETERSON
"WCCO was a blast. Every morning, I'd have to be there. It was a just a 15-minute show, 8:30 till a quarter to 9, with Bob DeHaven. Five days a week. We'd do music from Broadway productions, the popular tunes. It was probably a five-piece band. Willie was there, too. I was the singer. Bob and I would talk back and forth about the products of the people that sponsored us. We were living in south Minneapolis. Grandma Peterson was a good baby sitter.
"I also had a half-hour show in the evening. I think it was called 'As You Like It.' I did some piano playing and singing on that. Lovely people to work with, and good musicians. We'd rehearse at the studio. Not much. We faked our way. And it all turned out. I enjoyed every minute."
BILLY PETERSON: Bassist, formerly with the Steve Miller Band
"One day in 1965 when I was 14, I sat down at the piano with my mom like I had done so many times before, but this particular time it was different. I remember feeling very frustrated because of the long uphill road that I would have to climb just to scratch the surface of the harmonic knowledge that she had and still has. So, I said, 'Mom, why don't you re-harmonize?' [Alter the original chord changes to a tune and make the song your own.] She went on to create, on the spot, the most beautiful version of 'Danny Boy.'
"I said, 'You have to teach me that.' So, over the next two to three weeks, Mother painstakingly taught me the exact version that she played. Needless to say how I now admire her patience to sit with me and my limited ability and frustrations of a 14-year-old. It definitely was the catalyst that propelled me deeper into my own pursuit of harmonic knowledge that created the most wonderful musical life a grown man could ever hope for."
RICKY PETERSON: Keyboardist for Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt and others
"My mom played organ for the Twins after my dad, who had done it since Day One at Met Stadium, passed in '69. Mom or Dad didn't really stick to the traditional side of today's organ music played at the games because they were jazz musicians and innovators of the style. If it was a beautiful day, she would play something like 'On a Clear Day' or 'Spring Is Here.' Mom had a plethora of jazz standards that would suit the mood of the game.
"One game in the early '70s when I was selling Twins pennants and they were losing a very important game, all of a sudden I hear her play 'Put on a Happy Face.' I immediately perked up with a happier disposition. Mom did what she does for everyone -- with her heartfelt, infinite knowledge of music, she made everyone feel better."
PATTY PETERSON: Twin Cities jazz/pop singer
"In 2006, Mother played piano for me at my 'comeback concert' after I'd had emergency heart surgery. We entered the stage together and when Mother started playing her beautiful chords on the intro to 'Home,' the theater became pindrop-quiet. She set the tone for the lyrics of the song, which are about the meaning of home, the things you learn when you leave, especially the life-altering ones, like I'd just experienced.
"Mother sat at that piano, with her loving face towards me, and supported every breath and phrase I sang, as if to say that everything would be all right. We cried at the end of it, knowing that it was a new beginning and, just like at the start of my life, she was helping me start all over again. She helped to heal my heart that day."
PAUL PETERSON: Multi-instrumentalist with Oleta Adams, Kenny Loggins and Donny Osmond, and lead singer of fDeluxe
"I brought Mom with me to a concert I did with Oleta Adams at B.B. King's in New York City in 2006. Oleta is a huge fan of Mom's. As Oleta does every night, she introduced the band. When she got to me, she also announced my mom's name from stage and said, 'Jeanne, why don't you come up and play something?' Walking slowly, Mom really put on the old lady act on the way to the stage. Oleta got up from her keyboard, and the crowd didn't know what to think. Of course, in classic Jeanne style, she busted into some ridiculously complex up-tempo jazz piece, and the crowd went wild. They were on their feet, and Oleta said she had trouble getting back control of the show."
LINDA PETERSON: Jazz singer now based in Southern California
"It was a Monday night this month at the Old Log Theater. Mom was her old 'young' self, up on stage looking elegant, sitting at a beautiful ebony grand piano with a bunch of her peers, playing such swinging music I just couldn't get over it. She was in her element, playing great jazz with her contemporaries, none of them diminished musically by their advanced ages -- in fact, all playing as good or better than ever. It made me realize that my own mom is the finest female jazz pianist I've ever heard in all of my travels from Copenhagen to Palm Springs, bar none."