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Artist Spotlight: Meet The Swingaroos’ Kimberly Hawkey

November 25, 2022

Since 2015, Kimberly Hawkey has created and performed in all-new shows at FST in different Cabarets that highlight the evolution of music with her swing-era territory band, The Swingaroos. This summer, she returns to entertain FST audiences with some jukebox flair while celebrating the sounds of the turn of the century.

We sat down with Kimberly to learn more about Jukebox Saturday Night, her favorite songs to perform, and about the legacy of the Jukebox.

What makes this show different from the others you’ve brought to FST over the years, such as Hollywood Serenade and The Music of the Night?

Jukebox Saturday Night features the widest musical chronology of any of our previous shows. You can expect our usual swing shenanigans, but our signature style will be book-ended by about 20 years of American song in each direction. So we’re starting with turn-of-the-century Americana, think “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and ending well into the development of Rock & Roll with songs like “Hound Dog.”  

What inspired the idea for this show in particular – how did it come about? 

Our first show at FST in 2015 featured many originals by The Swingaroos and traditional songs from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. The Music of the Night (2018) was inspired by Broadway musicals, while Hollywood Serenade (2019) got to the roots of Big Bands in Hollywood. We like to pick the biggest hits of the century and bring as much emotional power to the stage as we can. This year, we get right to the point and use the history of the Jukebox as a way to highlight the greatest hits of the 1920s to the 1960s. The jukebox was a time capsule for the most popular songs of its day.

When many people think “jukebox,” they may think of The Fonz, or the American diner – aka pure 1950s nostalgia. But the jukebox dates back as early as the late 19th century and many are still around today. How has the music of the jukebox changed over the course of a century, and how do you capture that evolution in your musical revue? 

The earliest jukebox started as a big, clunky carnival attraction in the late 1800s and developed over time into a sleek, showy mechanism with flashing neon lights. It was always a way to enjoy popular songs in a social setting. Most venues had some control over the music stocked in their jukeboxes, and it became one of the few ways people were introduced to “race records,” or recordings by black artists that otherwise didn’t get air-play on the radio. It was also a place to hear, and sometimes see – a few jukeboxes had video screens – an eclectic mix of folk singers, patriotic numbers, and musical comedians. In Jukebox Saturday Night, we travel chronologically, but there will still be some surprises along the way…just like the songs you get to experience as you’re waiting for your own selection to play at the jukebox!  

What does this music mean to you? Why do you think it has such lasting power? 

As I started to draw the evolutionary lines from one musical style to another, I fell in love with music I initially didn’t care for. It became easier for me to find connection between all styles of American pop music, most of it stemming from parlor songs and Black music at the turn of the century. If you like pop, Rock & Roll, soul, Motown, folk, blues, OR jazz, you will like this show. There comes a point where genre fades away and all you’re left with is great music.  

What is your hope for this show? 

I hope that the FST audience gets to relive some of their favorite songs, and maybe walk away with new favorites or ones that they had forgotten about until now. We want everyone to experience each song with the same excitement and buzz they’d feel if they were hearing it within the year it was released. We love to time-travel with the audience and capture the essence of each style, while still fully inhabiting our “Swingaroos flair.” Jukebox Saturday Night is all about the biggest hits, which appeals to music lovers of all genres. It’s a timeline of danceable, singable music to lift our spirits and bring people together. These are the catchiest songs of the century!