True Gritt

There doesn't seem to be anybody in the local music scene who doesn't know
Gayle Ritt. Depending on your point of view, she is either a relentless pest, or
someone who believes in her music to such a degree that she simply can't resist
telling the world about it at every possible opportunity.

Come to think of it, she's probably a little of both.

A native of Flagstaff, Ariz., the 32-year-old singer and songwriter moved to
Chicago in June, 1998, drawn in part by this city's vibrant music scene. She'd been
working in Florida as the marketing director of a cigar company, and she landed an
impressive job here with a local publicity firm, specializing in public relations for
several large restaurants. But she's quick to tell you that's just her day job.

"The music is as much a part of my life as my job," Ritt says. "Every minute that I'm
not working, I'm trying to keep on moving forward with the music."

Indeed, Ritt is one of the hardest working musicians in town. She gigs relentlessly,
playing an acoustic show every Wednesday starting at 10 p.m. at Bordo's, 2476
N. Lincoln, and doing headlining and opening slots whenever she can with one of
her two bands. She opens tonight for Vonda Shepard at the House of Blues.

To date, Ritt has released two D.I.Y. recordings, the full-length album "Somewhere
to Turn" and the acoustic E.P. "Naked Tunes" (both available via her Web site, ). And she is currently working on two more releases, one a
new E.P. to be issued under her own name, and the other the debut by 13
Flowers, her new collaboration with guitarist Beau Glazar, bassist Jaxxon Grimm,
drummer John Doyle, and backing vocalist Kim Morris. (Ritt's own band is
completed by bassist Doug Kren, drummer Steve Osterman, and guitarist Adam

"I've always had a lot of energy," Ritt says. "And I guess you could say that I don't
sleep much!"

Ritt's strength as a performer is a gutsy voice that brings to mind a poppier Pat
Benatar, or maybe Sarah McLachlan with a bad attitude. Her own material can
tend toward mainstream alterna-pop--Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, and U2
are acknowledged heroes--while 13 Flowers is a little more hard-hitting and
unpredictable. "On a lot of our recordings so far, I was just free-styling on the
vocals and the songs really just kind of came out," she says.

But Ritt's biggest asset is really her unflagging enthusiasm. "I'm a singer, and I can
write songs that make people feel stuff, and I love that and I feel really lucky to be
able to do it," she gushes. "So, I'm happy to be the booker, the promoter, the
flier-hander-outer, and the person who stands in front of Metro and grabs people
and says, 'Please come listen to me!' "

Other local bands could learn something from Ritt about the importance of having
faith in what they're doing, to say nothing of the benefits of persistence in working
to get the word out. So, what does a professional publicist know about promoting
her own music that the average amateur musician might not be aware of?

"The first rule is you have to have good music," Ritt says. "I hear a lot of [crap],
and no matter how persistent you are, nobody is going to write about you if the
music isn't there.

"Like with anything, it's also about relationships and how you deal with people. It's
being smart and being organized, reading and doing your research, and making sure
you have all the right information in your packet--just crossing your t's and dotting
your i's. Usually, I'm very anal retentive, and I try to make sure I have the matching
packet with the matching logo ..."

Anything else? "You should always introduce yourself to people," Ritt says. "That's
really important. And think in terms of marketing and public relations! For example,
I wore a suit made entirely of flowers when 13 Flowers played the Metro, and I
thought, 'Hmmm, maybe I could send a picture to Billboard or wherever!' It's
about thinking out of the box a little bit, and so many of these guys who are in
bands don't have any clue about that."

Fair enough. But what about walking that fine line between being persistent and
being a pest? How do you know when you've crossed it? "I always try to have a
smile and keep a sense of humor," Ritt says. "I don't know how to say it other than

Which doesn't really answer the question. But then again, look how much I just
wrote about her, so Ritt must be doing something right.

* * *


Like Gayle Ritt, another artist who knows a thing or two about self-promotion is
Rudy Ray Moore, the L.A. renaissance man better known as Dolemite. Over the
course of a career that now spans four decades, he's made six films (including the
early 1975 blaxploitation parody based on his signature character, "the baddest
man who ever lived"), and 18 albums that range musically from blues to funk, with
X-rated ghetto humor serving as the lyrical common denominator.

Moore/Dolemite has been cited as an influence by numerous comedians, including
Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, while his grooves have been sampled by the
likes of Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, and ODB, among other rappers. Now, he's touring as
part of the build-up for the release of his first album of new material in years, "21st
Century Dolemite," due March 26 on The Right Stuff. There's also a new movie in
the works, "Return to Dolemite," while the old films are being reissued on DVD.

There are no big surprises on "21st Century Dolemite"; standout musical tracks
include the big-band funk of "Hot Nuts," the nasty rap track "Dr. Sex," and a
comedy routine about Mike Tyson called "Mike Biteson." But no one really
expects Moore to change a winning formula at this late stage in the game.

Dolemite takes the stage tonight at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, following
the Comeons and the Afflictions starting at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15; call (773)
281-4444 for more info