Carole J. Bufford grew up in a tiny town in Lincolnton, GA, listening to her mom play “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” on the radio. Now she is bringing that song, and many other classics from the ’60s and ’70s, to life on the stage in Come Together: When the 60s Met the 70s. Carole has become one of the brightest stars of New York City’s jazz and cabaret scene, and is thrilled to bring her powerhouse vocals and jazzy style to Florida Studio Theatre this summer.
We sat down with Carole to talk about what inspired her to create Come Together, what she loves about Sarasota audiences, and her obsession with the Harry Potter books.
What drew you to this era of music when you started designing/developing your own cabaret?
I listened to this music as kid, but honestly, I never thought about doing a show of music from the ’60s and ’70s until a friend suggested it. I was immediately hooked once I started researching the time period and realized just how strongly the music reflected the change and chaos happening in our country.
Why do you think this music resonates with so many people still to this day?
It still resonates because the music is GOOD. They are well written tunes with thoughtful, interesting lyrics. There is a definite point of view and a unique style which people CRAVE in their music. A friend of mine once said that a well-written song can be bent without being broken. These songs have that quality. You can change up the arrangements, as we have done for many of the songs in Come Together, and their true intent still shines through.
Also, America was really going through the ringer during the ’60s and ’70s, and it is reflected in the music. The stakes are high, and that will always appeal to people.
Plus, the themes are universal and timeless. People will always be falling in and out love, fighting injustices, and searching for freedom and their place in this weird and wonderful world we live in!
You recently made your UK debut. What was that experience like?
Fabulous! It was my first trip abroad, and it could not have been lovelier. The venue, The Crazy Coqs, was lovely and the audiences were so welcoming.
British audiences are a little different from American audiences – they rarely vocalize their pleasure during a song. They save their hooting and hollering for the end of the tune – very civilized!
Everyone I met there was so kind and they were thrilled to have the chance to see a cabaret show. They don’t have quite as many cabaret venues there as we do here in the States.
What do you love most about Sarasota audiences?
Everything! You all are a savvy bunch. I love the enthusiasm, the exclamations of glee when a song they recognize begins, and the genuine interest that they show to me after a show.
I love chatting with Sarasotans after the show. They are always quick to recommend their favorite restaurant or place to visit. Very gracious hosts!
What is something that our audiences would be surprised to know about you?
Oh gosh, I don’t know…
My favorite singer is Dinah Washington.
I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan – I’ve read each of the books at least 15 times.
I was my high school valedictorian.
And I have the worst sense of direction known to man – any of that surprising?
What does the history and music of this era have to teach us about the past?
Find your unique voice and take chances, and seek out others who are doing the same.
So many of these songs were almost not heard because some executive didn’t think audiences would go for something new. What I love about the music from this era is that it is difficult to box the majority of these tunes into one genre. There is soul and blues merging with folk. Jazz with some funk slapped on it. Blues, country, and rock & roll in a melting pot.
Citizens of our country were bravely fighting hard for their civil rights, and music (not necessarily the industry, but music itself) was a place where differences could combine and make something new and wonderful and exciting. There is much to be learned from that.