Their names aren't Naomi and Wynonna, but a mother-daughter singing duo from Omaha wouldn't mind if anyone likened them to the Judds.
Jaymie Jones and daughter Kelli toured their country music act regionally last summer, wrote and recorded a CD, and plan to hit the road again in 2013. But they became a duo almost by accident.
“I had never thought of Kelli as a partner,” said Jaymie, who has sung professionally in the U.S., Europe and Asia. “This seems to come naturally to her.”
A couple of years ago, Jaymie was writing songs and singing solo, and Kelli was preparing to enter Westside High School. Mom says daughter was bored and asked whether she could sing backup.
At the 2010 Red Sky Music Festival in Omaha, a stage manager who had worked with the Judds and other big names suggested that Jaymie let Kelli join her up front.
“He said, 'She really looks good and she looks confident, like she enjoys it,'” Jaymie recalled. “Kelli wanted to do it right away.”
The duo, who call their act “Belles and Whistles,” come from a widely known Omaha musical family.
Jaymie grew up the oldest of the four singing Rizzuto sisters, daughters of accountant Frank Rizzuto and his wife, former jazz singer Jeri Suiter. As girls of stair-step height, Jaymie, Rachel, Heather and Allie sang in the Show Wagon competitions in Omaha parks.
They also toured widely at state and county fairs and other venues, perfecting their intricate harmonies. By 1996, they called themselves “Mulberry Lane,” for the location of the family home in the Fairacres neighborhood.
They signed a national recording contract, toured Germany, Japan and elsewhere, and appeared on NBC's “Today” show and ABC's “Good Morning America.”
They sang national anthems before a Sugar Bowl and at professional sports events, including a 2004 NASCAR race in Kansas City, Kan., in front of 120,000 fans and a national TV audience. The sisters toured with their Mulberry Lane Christmas show for several years through 2010.
Jaymie began writing and singing solo in 2009 and eventually left Mulberry Lane. The others remain a trio, with an hourlong weekly radio snow (11 a.m. Saturdays on KKAR-1290AM) and plans for an album and a tour.
Jaymie's split from the sister act, and then the creation of a mother-daughter act, apparently hasn't caused family disharmony, musical or otherwise.
“We were sorry Jaymie left the group,” the trio said in a statement, “but we totally understand her decision to support her talented daughter. We wish her all the best with Kelli. They have a great future.”
Kelli, 15, is no neophyte. She has sung and danced onstage since she was 6 and performed as one of the Von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music” at 8.
She has acted ever since in local theater, including for several years in “A Christmas Carol” at the Omaha Community Playhouse. She takes honors courses at Westside, especially enjoying math and science, and sings in the school's show choir.
“I'm amazed at how she juggles everything,” her mother said. “I didn't know if she could do 'Christmas Carol' this year with her heavy class load, but she has.”
Kelli helped Jaymie write some of the songs on the Belles and Whistles CD and sings lead on half of them. (For samples, go to bellesandwhistlesmusic.com.) Vocals were recorded partly in the family home and partly in Los Angeles. The CD was produced by Grammy winner Don Gehman.
“My favorite part is performing,” Kelli said. “I like being in front of an audience and seeing their reaction.”
Keeping up with the Joneses must be tough for the rest of the family, though the name isn't really Jones. Dad is attorney Michael C. Schilken, with sons Michael, 10, and Drew, 8.
Mom chose “Jaymie Jones” as a stage name for its simplicity and its alliteration, and her daughter goes by Kelli Jones.
The duo is in negotiations to include some of their work on a country-music compilation in Nashville, Tenn. Meanwhile, B&W will be one of 17 acts at 11 venues in Council Bluffs on New Year's Eve for the sixth annual “First Night.”
But on Christmas Eve, Jaymie Rizzuto Schilken (Jones) will rejoin her sisters for a longtime tradition — their annual Mulberry Lane a cappella concert at 11 p.m., before midnight Mass at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, 19th and Dodge Streets downtown.
By whatever names, music and harmony is a tradition for this Omaha family.
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