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Massie sings the blues
By JOE HOLLEMAN :: reprinted with permission of the Post-Dispatch

Kim MassieYou may not know Kim Massie. But if you ever hear her sing, you won't forget her.

From choir to karaoke, this 44-year-old blues and jazz singer from Madison, Ill., is starting to make a name outside of the local clubs and lounges where she sets patrons on their ears with her voice.

That is more than a long way for a woman who as a young girl "was simply terrified" to sing in front of people.

"In 1981, I had to sing at my sister's wedding and I just couldn't look at the audience," Massie said. "The crowd was all over to my right, so I was facing off to the left the whole time.

"For years, when I had to sing in front of people, it was like my lips would swell up and my throat would get so tight. I was simply terrified."

Currently, Massie is starring in "It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues," which runs through April 13 at the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre. For the past four years, she has been featured in the "Women In Blues" show at the Sheldon Concert Hall, matching notes with such local favorites as Denise Thimes and Jeanne Trevor.

Massie is featured every Tuesday and one Friday a month at Beale on Broadway, 701 South Broadway, with the Solid Senders. She also is a guest soloist at both the Unity Christ Church, 33 North Skinker Boulevard and the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Boulevard.

But as strange as it may seem, some of Massie's first audiences in St. Louis were busy looking for good deals in the yarn bin when they first heard her sing.

Shortly after Massie moved back to the area in 1999 to live with her biggest fan - her mother, Charlyn Woods, who proudly attends most of her performances - she worked at Hancock Fabrics in Kirkwood.

"I love to sew - and I needed a job. At the end of the evening, someone would get on the little store microphone to tell people it was closing time. A co-worker one night told me to sing something. So it became sort of a thing I'd do when we'd close up," Massie said.

"Now when I go back to the store to shop, the employees still ask me to give them a little something," she added.

Massie, who has one sister and one brother, was born in St. Louis and lived in the Madison area and attended Blair Elementary School. Her family moved to Lorraine, Ohio, near Cleveland, when she was nine.

"I was in junior high in Lorraine when choir piqued my interest," Massie said. She ended singing in four different school choirs by the time she reached Admiral King High School, along with singing in her church choir.

In 1992, it was karaoke that actually pushed Massie, who was a mother of three by then, into considering music as a career.

"Before karaoke, I just knew I liked to sing. But I didn't think I could do anything with it. Making a living in music was the farthest thing from my mind," she said.

She won both a state competition and a national competition in the mid-1990s. She said success gave her the boost to try band singing.

Massie credits Beale owner Bud Jostes with helping her career in St. Louis. But Jostes said it wasn't much of a tough decision.

"In 1999, I heard Kim sing with Oliver Sain," said Jostes, who had previously owned the Soulard Ale House. "I remember thinking that if I ever opened up another club, I was going to get her to sing for me.

"I'm one of Kim's biggest fans, and we've become very good friends. She's classy, she's witty, and people just like her," he said. "She is a real person. "

Massie also credits Thimes with promoting her career. "She has been wonderful to me," Massie said, referring to Thimes. "This blues show with the Black Rep, she put the word in for me to be in that."

Massie is a quick learner in her drive to get bigger in the business and has seen enough to pass on a few pointers.

"I've learned that there is no such thing as an overnight sensation, you have to work at this business. Talent is not enough. Know what your rights are and, more importantly, know where your money goes."

Massie, now a grandmother of 10, sticks to an old formula for dealing with people - the Golden Rule.

"Treat other people the way that you want to be treated," she said. "It ensures that wherever you go, you can always go back that way again."

The practical Massie gave one final bit of advice for those working in nightclubs.

"Don't mess with the folks who are cooking your food."

Reporter Joe Holleman | E-mail | Phone: 314-340-8254

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