Doo-wop gets youths involved in musical fundraiser competition

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published June 12, 2018

 Deb Mulka, Kelly Miller and Suzy Hoover, of The WhatAbouts, are hosting a musical fundraiser competition.

Deb Mulka, Kelly Miller and Suzy Hoover, of The WhatAbouts, are hosting a musical fundraiser competition.

Photo provided by The WhatAbouts

 Miller, Mulka and Hoover want to encourage young people to take a more active interest in doo-wop music.

Miller, Mulka and Hoover want to encourage young people to take a more active interest in doo-wop music.

Photo provided by The WhatAbouts

FARMINGTON HILLS — Livonia resident Suzy Hoover, 49, has fond family memories of growing up in Inkster with the backdrop of doo-wop crooning from the family’s records and over the radio.

 “We had a 45 of (‘Please) Mr. Postman,’” she said of the old records that turn at 45 revolutions per minute. “I was listening to that over and over and over. Now I sing lead on that, because I memorized it as a child.”

Hoover sings lead in a three-woman ’60s-style musical trio, The WhatAbouts, based in metro Detroit. They have traveled to Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey for performances.

Hoover; Deb Mulka, of Livonia; and Kelly Miller, of Farmington Hills, perform songs from the 1940s to the 1960s, and they are embarking on a new endeavor in hopes of getting young people involved.

In the spirit of charity, and to keep doo-wop alive for the next generation, The WhatAbouts are holding a competition through July for 7- to 16-year-olds to vie to perform in a show to raise funds for the Michigan Heart Association. 

After being featured in March on the Public Broadcasting Service series “My Music: Doo Wop Generations,” in which doo-wop legends like The Drifters sang together, the local group was inspired to hold a fundraiser. 

The WhatAbouts recorded the show last December in New Jersey and sang with some originals from that time period. Show representatives invited doo-wop tribute singers, such as The WhatAbouts, to perform — the group was the only one from Michigan to be invited. Some people came from Italy and throughout the United States for the show, and about 200 people were involved.

Now they are passing the torch. 

Kids ages 7-12 and 13-16 can send in their own audition videos of them singing songs from the 1950s and 1960s. Participants can send a three-minute video audition by Aug. 1 to kelicamusic@yahoo.com.

Groups and solo auditions will be accepted, as long as the song choice has the doo-wop sound, with harmonies.

The groups should be willing to do light choreography in the competition, though choreography is not necessary in the audition tape, according to a press release. 

The competition is not a talent show of instrumentals, although singing with a guitar or keyboard is fine if the song is approved, according to the release.

Those chosen for the competition will go on to compete in a talent fundraiser show in the fall. Two winners, one from each age group, will be named at the show. 

The WhatAbouts may select up to 20 contestants to be in the September show, which will be judged by a panel of judges, and prizes will be awarded. 

Money from the fundraiser will go toward the Michigan Heart Association and two programs through Joyce Meyer Ministries: Hand of Hope and Project GRL, or “Guide. Restore. Love.”

Miller, the manager of The WhatAbouts and a vocalist, said the group wants to help the younger generation in “keeping doo-wop alive.”

Miller said she likes to work with kids, and she has seen how the community rallies around young people when it comes to putting on programs.

“I always like to teach them something and see them perform,” she said.

Miller said that those in the competition will enjoy the harmonies in doo-wop.

“They don’t have a lot of that today — the doo-wop came from the street-corner harmonies of a cappella,” she said. “I know a lot of kids into drama like to sing, act and dance.”

The WhatAbouts became a group 11 years ago after branching off from a Livonia Civic Chorus group.

Mulka said that at that time, no one knew one another, and when they first started out, they wore polka dots and petal pushers.

“And now we wear sequins and dresses,” she said. “(It’s) funny, because we always had go-go boots, but we’ve just grown so much, and even as far as entertaining as well.”

The group performs danceable music, and they said that the male singers from the music’s original era had a lot of danceable songs, while the women didn’t always.

Mulka said their audience is primarily people 50 and older, although every now and then they get a youngster.

Costumes and choreography will not be needed until the show in September, which will be held at the Rockin Country Music Round Up, 5050 Dixie Highway in Waterford.

For more information, go to www.thewhatabouts.com.