Today, many of us will grieve the death of Arlene Zock, each for our own reasons. Mine are very clear to me. The ache of her demise will be with me forever and here's why.
She first sang with me and Bob McNiven about 13 years ago. I was hosting a party at the Naval Club on Hayden Street and she offered to lead the crowd in a singalong of Christmas Songs (she was good at this and did it often). Bob and I suggested we arrange a few songs that she could sing with Whiskey Jack and she was eager to do that. We got together and we began with a fun version of White Christmas. I remember very clearly that moment when we first heard the three voices together. Bob and I looked at each other and we said with our eyes, "OMG, is this as good for you as it is for me?". From that moment, the three of us did not stop singing together..
At first she offered her version of Blue Bayou, Crazy, Harper Valley PTA and then gradually many of the Whiskey Jack tunes we wanted to perform. She embraced each and every suggestion and made each song her own. This was clearly a vocal match made in heaven.
We would then make excuses to get together to sing. In due course, Bob and Arlene got a regular gig at a little cafe in the Junction called L'Arte and I would join them as a guest. The crowds got larger each week. Then we were offered a regular gig at Ben Wicks on Parliament Street and attendance there grew quickly. We would meet weekly, working on the long list of tunes we thought would work well with these voices. First there was the Willie P. Bennett tune, In A Prayer. I knew she was nuts about the Beach Boys so I suggested In My Room and we had a terrific arrangement in 15 minutes. Then the Everly Brothers tune Let It Be Me was suggested and wouldn't you know it, it came together in an hour, complete with key changes and the whole bit. It soon became one of our most requested tunes. The list is long.
But, the turning point for me was the realization that no matter what song we sang, Arlene could make it sound fantastic. I'm sorry I never told her this but she gave me the courage to sing a song on my own after 25+ years of only singing the baritone part in the Whiskey Jack trios. As I began to sing my songs, no matter how many bad notes I hit or no matter how bad my phrasing was, I knew that all was ok. Soon we would be singing the chorus and once Arlene added her part, all would be forgiven and the lovely harmonies would prevail.
Whether it was with Whiskey Jack, the George Lake Big Band or her choir, she made us all sound good.
It is a very sad day for music fans throughout the city.