Home Sweet Home
I was born in the extraordinarily windy city of Chicago. During my 2nd year, I moved with my forward thinking parents to the suburb of Niles, Illinois where I lived for most of my life. Along with my father Jerry, my mother Marilyn and my brother Irwin, we proceeded to grow a million memories there. Unlike most folks that moved West, I still love the snow!
Flute and I
As a young child I began studying piano for which I continued lessons throughout my high school years. In junior high school I was asked to choose an instrument for which I wanted to play in the high school band. Since there was no piano in the band I had to come up with another option. I looked on the shelf where my Dad kept his instruments and noticed that he had an extra flute. This was it, my new instrument! I practiced diligently and played in the East Maine Jr. High School band. Freshman Year at Maine East High School (yes, the same school that Hillary Clinton and Harrison Ford attended) found me spending all my time in the music department. I studied flute with a wonderful teacher named Jimmy Wolf. He was one of those special teachers that I remembered by the smell of his aftershave, his warm smile and the great amount of encouragement that was forever imprinted upon me. Jimmy eventually suggested I study with Kathleen Goll who, at the time, played flute for the Chicago Lyric Symphony. I was a diligent student and eventually won a number of scholarships and awards as a flutist and even had the rare opportunity to be the guest soloist with a local symphony.
My New Love – Bass
I attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, IL for two years as a flute performance major. I became very discouraged by the music department and the flute professor I was studying with. Although I learned a lot and had some wonderful teachers, I decided to stretch my wings. During those years I discovered something that I preferred to playing flute; I preferred playing electric bass. I began playing with dear friends Kristin Lems and Cherry Wolfarth in a band called Ms. Conception. Kristin had a friend at the time who was a guitar player and owned a million basses as well. Each rehearsal he’d bring me a bass until I found one that suited me. Yes, the Gibson EB-3 ended up becoming my new voice. One of the first songs I ever played on bass was “For What it’s Worth.” Believe me, when I played it many years later on a gig with its composer Stephen Stills, I couldn’t have been more touched!
I moved to Austin, Texas in November of 1976. Ok, maybe it appeared it was only for love, but I had heard that Austin was a music town and I thought it would be a great place for me to learn to become a real bass player. I spent the next 11 years doing just that. The first band I played with in Austin was called “Jubilee”. We were a group of women playing music that made a political statement. But even more than that, we were a family and made all our decisions as a collective. To this day there are still fans that would love a reunion.
In 1978 I began working with a country artist named Jess Demaine. For the two years that I played with Jess we toured every country dance hall in the state of Texas. I learned to two-step, I learned the Cotton Eyed Joe and got to work with some of the most wonderful musicians. Jess to this day remains one of the most gifted vocalists I’ve worked with.
1980/81, I received a call asking me if I’d be interested in going on the road with the circus. All jokes aside, it was an interesting opportunity. Of course my parents weren’t too happy about it, but as most young adults do, I decided to do what my parents said not to! I was the only woman in an 8 piece band. I toured with Circus Vargas for 8 months on the road before deciding to go back to school. I had a tiny little trailer that I lived in – I fondly called it “The Egg” because it looked like one. On a drive to the a new city, the trailer’s outer wall disconnected and rested on the tire causing the entire trailer to catch fire. I jumped inside, grabbed my belongings and said goodbye to the egg which we left on the side of the road somewhere in Arizona.
My Days in Texas
1981-’84 – I attended the University of Texas at Austin. I was blessed to study with some amazing teachers such as Rick Lawn who was the head of the UT Jazz Orchestra and founding director of the Jazz Studies School at UT. I was the bassist for the UT Jazz Orchestra who performed with such greats as Mel Torme, Randy Brecker, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin. At that point in time electric bass was not a recognized major instrument so I had to go back to my roots. After taking 6 years off as a flute player it was a huge effort to get back on track, but I did. I studied with a brilliant flautist named Torkil Bye who was principal flute in the Oslo Symphony Orchestra. If I had met Torkil Bye during my earlier college years as a flute major I would never have chosen to become a bass player at all. He was a most inspiring player and teacher. In 1984 I received my Bachelor of Music in Theory/Composition from the University of Texas at Austin. I also played 6 nights a week during all my school years there. I played with the Donna Menthol Band for years. Donna is a kindred spirit, dear friend and a gifted vocalist and teacher. I also played for years with the Kelly Gray Band, Eloise Burrell band, The Little Big Band – just to name a few. During this time I also met and became friends with one of my bass mentors, Roscoe Beck. I would go listen to Roscoe all the time with his band Passenger. My years in Texas were fruitful and have left me with a wealth of amazing memories.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1986 after touring with Oleta Adams out of Kansas City. Her work had ended and I decided it was time to try the West Coast. I worked hard to begin a new life. I started playing on Monday nights at Carlos and Charlies on Sunset Blvd. Jim Vukovich was the music director for the cabaret nights there and I was hired to play bass. Many of the people I met back in 1987 are the people I still work with today. Jim called me to play bass for Freda Payne in Japan in 1988. This was the beginning of a sequence of opportunities that allowed me to be in the right place at the right time. I was hired to play the reunion tour of the Original Fifth Dimension. After that was a tour with Michelle Shocked. I met Rita Coolidge in 1991 playing in the house band for the Phillips Pro Celebrity Classic in Bentonville, Arkansas. She asked for my number and I received a call a couple of months later from her publicist wanting to see if I could play a gig for her in Petaluma, California that August. She and I have worked together ever since. In 1995 I worked as music director for Nell Carter. I auditioned for Diana Ross in 1990 and was hired in 1993 and stayed with her till 2004.
From Present to Future
In 2003 I began to venture into the world of musical theatre. I played regional tours of Smokey Joes Café in 2001-02, Grease in 2002 and Fame in 2003. Beginning in 2004 I started getting contracted out of New York and played the 1st National Tour of Little Shop of Horrors 2004-2006. In LA I played with world premier of Mask in Los Angeles (2010), and also the world premiere of Sister Act in both Los Angeles and Atlanta 2006-2007. I played a one night solo show with Alan Menken at the Green Room at Lincoln Center. That was a remarkable night. In 2012 I was offered the Broadway run of Leap of Faith. I had already played the world premiere here in LA along with all the readings. I was thrilled to go play the show on Broadway. Sadly the show closed in 6 weeks. I did however play on the cast album. Immediately after I was offered the 1st National Tour of Sister Act which I happily accepted. In 2016 I was thrilled to play the world premiere of Reunion ’85, written by the masterful Susan Draus, performed at the Lone Tree Arts Center in Lone Tree, CO.
I continue to Music Direct for Jackie Deshannon. I also music direct yearly for the MovieGuide Awards here in Los Angeles. I’ve begun doing much more writing and producing in the last couple of years. Talk about full circle, Kristin Lems asked me to produce a new CD for her (You, Me and All of the Above). After 40 years we had the chance to work together again and the CD came out to rave reviews. I have also begun touring with Beth Malones’ one woman show ‘So Far!’
2017 started out with a bang as MTD (Michael Tobias Design) released my signature Lynn Keller bass! I’m extremely thrilled and proud to now have this gorgeous custom bass on the market.
Music is the ultimate healing power for me. To be blessed to do what you love in life is a gift. I always talk about being a daughter of good fortune – but it’s really true, and I’m forever grateful.
– Lynn Keller