My professional career in New York City started out unceremoniously. I was at every popular blues jam in New York City at the height of blues jams in the city (1987-1992). I got there promptly at 10pm when the sign-up sheets went up and was usually sitting there alone and tipsy at 2:30am when I got up for one song. After 5 years of jams and failed attempts at original bands (4 total) I decided that my true love in music was jazz. New York was just not working for me, so I felt my choices were Paris, New Orleans or San Francisco. I didn’t speak French, hated the heat and my sister and aunt lived in San Francisco, so that is where I headed.
San Francisco is my city. From the minute I pulled into town in my “drive-away” car I loved everything about it. I moved to Haight Street (actually on the street and in a front room at that!) into a house with all musicians and a new chapter began. At first I worked with a very talented blind guitarist by the name of Paris. We worked relentlessly for over a year in the studio creating and recording an entire album of original material. We hired some great musicians to play with us, called it Non-Prophets, and got our first gig at some Eastern European restaurant in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. It went great and we were hired for another show the next month. At the second show, Paris and the drummer got into a fight, and the band never played out again. We ironically never made any profit at all.
At that point I started working with an idea I had. I wanted a lead-bass band. No guitarist, just a very talented bass player. I found him in the paper with the ad, “My influences are Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller and Flea”. Scott Arnold came to the audition and a partnership was formed. He was fluent on the bass and a really funny guy who I clicked with immediately. We started, “Sideways” with Tony Bertke on saxophone and Kyle Pesonen on drums throughout most of the bands history. It was a band of all original music with myself on vocals, Scott on bass, Tony on tenor saxophone, flute and soprano saxophone, various people on keys, Kyle on drums and a usually a percussionist. We practiced relentlessly twice a week in a studio next to “4 Non Blondes” right as “What’s Up” became a national hit.
Sideways did well in the San Francisco acid-jazz scene. We opened for some of the biggest groups of that era and were proud to be a part of the San Francisco jazz scene. Charlie Hunter had just gotten signed to BlueNote, and Scott and I were often the only two people at T.J. Kirk gigs at the Elbo Room. We soaked in the music and played our own style of soul~funk~jazz all over the Bay Area and even went on a California tour together. Larry Blake’s in Berkeley was our defacto club and we loved playing that room. The songs were quirky and fun, and you can hear them and buy the CD of our work online at http://cdbaby.com/cd/sideways
Sideways was recording that CD with their friend, Joe Rut when Scott decided that he no longer wanted to play the music. Mid-recording the band was done. To this day the recordings don’t have the keyboards on them. A few months later, Scott and I got obliterated drunk on winter brews at a Haight Street bar in my final ditch attempt to get the band together long enough to finish the recordings, but I lost the battle. However, Scott and I are still close friends to this day. In fact he was the “bridesman” at my wedding.
After Sideways I tried singing back-ups for the first time with a great original funk band called Skull Funk Tribe. The first show I played with them we opened for “Eek-A-Mouse” and I barely made it out of the green room. Chiara and I sang back-ups together for about a year and then the band fell apart. It was a really great band that probably would have taken off if the men had taken off their skull face make-up.
At this point nothing was working in San Francisco for me anymore. I gave up on music and love and was a big old mess. I frequently took photography road trips from San Francisco to Boulder and on a fateful one in June of 2003 I rashly decided to move to Boulder. By October I was driving East with all my stuff to settle into the Colorado way of life.
About a year after moving to Boulder I was contacted by Jason Coomes, or Jasco as he later named himself. He was an extremely talented guitarist who had just deserted his California dreams as well and was moving from L.A. to the Denver area. We met at a jam and both had immediate respect for each others talents. We formed The Shamans. The Shamans was the first band that I ever learned songs in, and I felt like I was learning a new blues song every day. I had been an original artist from the get-go and only knew “Stormy Monday” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” before meeting Jason. We had a blast playing with Jason Kapp on bass and Naku Mayo on drums. With that first line-up we toured Wyoming in 2005 and 2006 as Blinddog Smokin’. Carl Gustafson joined us on vocals and harp and we had some great times together. The Shamans developed into a band interpreting blues, funk, soul and jazz standards. We wrote a couple of originals together (“Soul Conversation” and “What’s Wrong with Me”) and played successfully throughout the Denver, Ft. Collins and Boulder area. We also ran a jam every Thursday at Ziggie’s for 2 years. Working with Jason taught me so much and I am eternally grateful to him for that, but he jumped ship for a band he thought would be more successful in 2007 and I was left to start over again. Our MySpace page is still preserved here… http://www.myspace.com/theshamans
I love music with all my heart and soul and every time I think I’m done, something happens to bring me back out on stage again. After The Shamans disbanded I realized I needed to have the power to decide if my band was finished because every time my bands got close to success my partners bailed. So this time I just named the new band “Gretchen Troop Band” (at this point I dropped the silent “h” from my last name so people would stop mispronouncing my last name 'Throop'). I started the band in 2008 and took the song choices deeper into my true love of soul~funk.
I had some amazing gigs and times with that band, but here is the candid part, having my own band was brutal. With the band named after me, most of the musicians I played with were there 'for hire' and they didn't help with booking, promotion or practicing (with the exception of the 6-piece band, they rocked this), pretty much everything that is needed to make a band successful. I was out swinging in the wind by myself and I hated it. The partnerships I have had in music have been my favorite part of playing music and I missed it with this band. I loved playing with almost everybody I hired and there were some outstanding musicians and great friends that I played with in the GT Band. It's just that the weight of running the band myself and not being able to work off stage with the musicians to create original music and make the band better got to me more than I was enjoying being on stage. When the Outlook closed I did too. But the Outlook was a great time! Here's some of my accomplishments in the Denver Area...
I have had extensive vocal training throughout my career in music. In New York City, I was trained for 3 years at Carnegie Hall by the operatic teacher, Mike Mitchell. In 1987 I had the great fortune of beginning my work with the gospel/blues legend, Georgia Louis. She became a life-long friend and my “music-mama” until she passed in 2015. In San Francisco I worked for 2 years with Faith Winthrop, an adept jazz singer/teacher. In 2013 I started lessons with Paul Rogalski at Mojo’s Music Academy learning to play the bass guitar.
I am currently looking for new opportunities in music. I offer my extensive career in music which I have put my heart and soul into, a unique soulful voice that works in lead or as a back-up voice, a strong work ethic both on and off stage, and a desire to help with band graphics, promotion, audio and video recording and of course photography. If you would like to hire me to sing for your band live or in a recording I'm ready. Music decides where I go, I’m just the traveller.