The Gleaner
Nanette Workman

Lady ‘Mama’lade

“I recently read your biography Rock’n’Romance with great interest. I was impressed with your honesty and transparency. If your parents hadn’t been professional musicians and your mother hadn’t encouraged you, do you think you would have become an artist?” – Annie Delisle

I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, in a middle-class neighbourhood. With the exception that my parents were musicians, and that I was brought up in a musical household, I was just a regular kid.

My mom was a professional singer. She and my dad were both musicians; they were on the road in the States with a band when I was a baby. When I turned four, they were appearing in a club in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was there that they decided Mississippi would be a good place to settle down and raise a family. Dad became a music teacher and mom worked as a sales lady in the largest music store in the south, Werlein’s for Music.

Mom said I had been singing since the time I could talk. I was four years old the first time I sang on stage in public. Then I went on to weekly television shows and musical theatre productions until I graduated high school.

Probably, had it not been for the fact that my parents were musicians, I would not have had a career in music.

After high school I entered the University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in music. But

Mom was determined to send me to New York City to audition for a scholarship to go to the Juilliard School of Music.

I left for New York during the fall break. I had just turned 18, but my folks weren’t too worried about sending me there, as we had relatives in the Big Apple. I remained in New York for a week; I didn’t qualify for the scholarship, but I was accepted to study at Juilliard.Without the scholarship, though, my family could not afford to send me, so I would have to return to Mississippi.

Before I left New York, my mom called one of her cousins who owned a famous French restaurant on Fifth Avenue, Le Voisin,” a high-end establishment. Mom asked him if one of his friends, who was in the music profession, could hear me sing to assess my potential for success. So, I ended up auditioning for Rudy Vallee, who at that time was a well-knownBroadway actor.

After I sang for Mr. Vallee, he sent me to the 45th Street Theatre to sing for the famous Frank Loesser, author and composer of the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Mr. Loesser had me come to his office to sing for the producers of the show.At the end of this meeting, they asked me what my plans were. I said I was returning to Mississippi where I was attending university.

Then they asked me a question that will remain with me all my life. “Well, Miss Workman, would you prefer to return home and go to school, or would you like to be in this show as the understudy to Michelle Lee?”

(Well, gee, let me think… Duh! LOL)

Needless to say, the choice was very clear to me! I called my mom right away and told her about the offer. It’s hard to describe her excited, screaming voice on the phone!

I returned to Jackson, packed my bags, and got ready for an exciting new adventure. I was nervous but elated, and just before I got on the plane to return to New York, my mom said to me, Honey, don’t worry about anything. If things don’t work out, your dad and I are here for you, and you can always come home and go back to school.”

Those words gave me the courage and self-confidence to travel and take chances in my life and my career. My mother was always my source of inspiration and motivation and will always be at the very origin of my love story with life.

If you have a question for me, send it to nanette@the-gleaner.com.

Always looking forward,

Nanette XO

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1 Comment

Viviane Roy 2024-03-27 at 16:31

You are the BEST soeurette !!

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