Million-Seller Recording Artist, BMI Million Airs Songwriter and Number One Hit Arranger, Gretchen Diane Christopher was born to musical parents Helen and Ian Christopher, February 29, 1940, in Olympia, WA. There, she met her first love at age 16, wrote the music and lyrics to her first song, "Come Softly", arranged it in counterpoint to the "dum-dum" scat background of one of her classmates and the harmony of another, and the three (Two Girls 'n' a Guy) performed it before 1500 students, for their Senior Class Talent Assembly at Olympia High School (OHS) where it was an immediate hit.
A scholarship dancer at the Olympia Academy of Theatrical Arts, Gretchen, in her senior year at OHS, committed her life to the arts and made her professional debut dancing and singing solo on television at age 17. She then danced solo at Norm Bobrow's The Colony, supper club in Seattle, replacing Broadway-bound songstress Pat Suzuki, all before graduating from OHS in 1958.
By age 18 Gretchen had already recorded her trio at home (a cappella, with her singing lead), taken the demo to Seattle Record Promoter Bob Reisdorff who said, "It'll sell a million," and started his own label, Dolphin Records, to which he signed the trio (renamed The Fleetwoods, after their telephone exchange).
During five months of a cappella recording in Seattle, Producer Bob Reisdorff suggested lyrics be added to the male background part, as well, and the song then became a shared male/female lead. Master tapes were flown to L.A. where just acoustic bass and guitar were overdubbed, and it was released as Dolphin 1, "Come Softly To Me".
Gretchen who had completed her first semester at Whitman College, but had to leave to promote the record, turned 19 on their first tour. Even before it culminated with their first appearance on network TV's Dick Clark Show, "Come Softly To Me" was already the nation's Number One Hit and became the first million seller Gold Record produced on a Northwest label.
They followed up with their Top 40 Hit "Graduation's Here" co-written by former fellow cheerleaders Gretchen and Barbara, with Gretchen singing lead. By age 19, Gretchen and The Fleetwoods had earned two Gold Records, presented to them on national television by Dick Clark, for million sellers "Come Softly" and their third release, "Mr. Blue".
The Fleetwoods were the first group in the world to have multiple Number One Records top The Billboard Hot 100 in a single year (1959).
After 11 Billboard hit singles and albums, The Fleetwoods (each married to someone else) chose retirement and Gretchen Christopher (official spokesman for the trio and eventually Manager by contract) carried on the music and name of The Fleetwoods with selected performances and and interviews, world-wide.
After 14 years of marriage, a son, a daughter, an amicable divorce, and award winning solo performances, Gretchen fulfilled a long-held commitment to write, record and produce her first solo CD: Gretchen's SWEET SIXTEEN (Suite 16). It celebrated her 16th leap year birthday and reuniting with her first love whom she had met at age 16.
The story-telling suite of 16 self-penned songs included new recordings of "Come Softly" a cappella, "Graduation's Here" (with The Fleetwoods, today), "Come Softly To Me", "Time of Love" (with a nod to Pachelbel's Canon in D) and the haunting jazz of "Blues Go Away" (first Fleetwoods' solo).
The penultimate "What Time Is It?" had taken seven years to write, with seven verses in seven different keys. And the newly-penned title song "Sweet Sixteen" with six verses, six key changes, touching six decades, summarized the entire story told by the 16 songs.
The concept album's production took 3-1/2 years, with Gretchen dividing her time between the studio and her mother (on hospice care), to complete the album within her mother's lifetime.
Released on her own, newly created Gold Cup Music label, the self-penned, 16-song CD (with a 16-page booklet of autobiographical liner notes and photos) was launched with a November 2007 concert in Las Vegas, headlined by "The Fleetwoods starring Gretchen Christopher." Immediately afterward, Gretchen returned to take over full management of her mother's hospice care.
A month later, December 2007, Gretchen and her mother learned, together, that Gretchen's SWEET SIXTEEN (Suite 16) was among the Billboard Critics' Picks for 10 Best Albums of the year.
With Gretchen's continuing care, her mother lived beyond the age of 99 (four years longer than doctors' predictions), and was celebrated with family productions worthy of the inspiring, 2003 South Sound Salute to the Arts Award Recipient, Helen Christopher (1909-2008 - see Tributes at www.GretchenChristopher.com).
In November 2008, Gretchen Christopher was the only Fleetwood who attended and performed at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (HOF) 10th Anniversary Inductions Concerts, celebrating The Fleetwoods' 2006 induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (their fourth), following the Doo Wopp Hall of Fame of America (2006), Olympia High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame (2005) and Northwest Area Music Hall of Fame (1988).
For the HOF concert, absent her original partners, Gretchen chose a song to represent each one of them. She opened with the very first song she had written, arranged in counterpoint, and sung lead on: Number One Hit "Come Softly To Me" - followed by their 2nd Number One Hit, "Mr. Blue", which she dedicated to Gary Troxel, it's original lead - and ended with "Goodnight My Love", dedicating it to Barbara Ellis who had sung lead on it, their 11th and final hit.
Of all her achievements (see Awards & Distinctions at www.TheFleetwoods.com), Gretchen is most proud of persevering - against all odds and obstacles of age, illness, life and death - to write, perform, record, produce and release Gretchen's SWEET SIXTEEN (Suite 16), which - on an unknown label with no big money behind it- became a Billboard Critics' Pick for 10 Best Albums of the Year!
Artist descriptions on Last.fm are editable by everyone. Feel free to contribute!
All user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.