Moody Blues backup singer takes ‘White Satin’ for a spin in Morristown

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It must be every backup singer’s dream:

The star gets laryngitis. The microphone is thrust into your hand. And you blow the roof off the joint.

Julie Ragins sings with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Julie Ragins sings with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

For the record, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues is just fine. And there was no roof to blow off the courtyard behind Morristown’s Artist Baker café on Sunday.

But Julie Ragins proved she’s ready, if Justin ever disappears for a bathroom break at encore time.

Ragins has toured with Hayward and the Moodies for years–including performances at the Mayo Performing Arts Center–and she dedicated the classic Nights in White Satin to the band and its fans during Sunday’s outdoor concert with husband Curtis Brengle.

Performing as Pear Duo, they also covered songs by Patsy Cline and Stevie Wonder, re-invented some jazz standards, and threw in original numbers such as the La La Song:

The concert had the warm vibe of a family reunion–which it was.

As a girl growing up in Alaska, Ragins visited her grandmother in Morristown. Her cousin, Doug Greenberger, is a trustee of the historic Morristown Green and owns the courtyard venue. Ragins’ mom traveled from Cape Cod and her brother brought his family from New York City for the show, a benefit for the Gateway Totem Project of Morris Arts.

Curtis Brengle performs with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Curtis Brengle performs with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The event raised about $1,600, which will help underwrite arts programming at the new totem park at the Early Street Community Garden, said Kadie Dempsey of Morris Arts.

“It was a true Morristown moment,” she said of the show. “We had such positive feedback from the audience. Julie and Curtis are not just talented musicians, they are good people.”

Hayward is a fan, too.

“Julie has a voice that moves me,” he says on Pear Duo’s website. “It is a privilege and a joy to sing with her.”

Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, backed by Julie Ragins, at MPAC, August 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, backed by Julie Ragins, at MPAC, August 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Although Ragins and Brengle have been married for nearly two decades, this year marks  the Los Angeles couple’s first tour together. Until now, their musical schedules have pulled them in opposite directions. (Ragins departs soon for a U.K. tour with Hayward.)

Brengle, who has performed with Ray Charles, Chaka Khan and Englebert Humperdinck, handles piano duties for Pear Duo and drives the Ford F-150 truck.

Eighteen thousand miles later, what is the couple’s secret to marital bliss on the road?

“We just love each other, and like each other,” Brengle said.

READ MORRISTOWN GREEN’S INTERVIEW WITH JULIE RAGINS

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Julie Ragins sings with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Curtis Brengle performs with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Pear Duo performs in courtyard behind the Artist Baker café, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
New fan Willa Hayes with Pear Duo's Julie Ragins and her cousin, Doug Greenberger, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Julie Ragins and Curtis Brengle of Pear Duo with family members in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown resident Willa Hayes and singer Julie Ragins gets acquainted, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Willa Hayes, Lisa Camelotto and Barb Fowler at Pear Duo concert, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Julie Ragins performs with Pear Duo in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Julie Ragins sings in Morristown, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Curtis Brengle (center) and Julie Ragins (far right) with Julie's family, after Morristown concert, Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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