Rogue Suspects co-founder Greg Frederick.
Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic and wildfires on the performing arts, a longtime Rogue Valley group is optimistic about the future.
Greg Frederick and Shae Celine share the management responsibilities of Rogue Suspects, the funk, pop, rock, soul, blues and jazz group that has entertained audiences in the Valley for 22 years.
“We have worked very hard to create a new business model for the suspects,” Frederick said. “We produce, market and even sell our tickets. We rent venues or work with them to create new shows. The suspects are in line for one of the most successful years of all time. “
Celine sees people seeking more joy in their lives as the pandemic ends.
“And that includes music and dancing,” she said. “I have never been so busy. When businesses started to reopen, we recovered all of our “lost” shows and more. “
Frederick, founding member of the group with Dirk Price, plays bass and choirs. Céline, who has been with the group for 12 years, is a singer.
“Shae has incredible marketing instincts,” Frederick said. “She created most of the fresh picture of the suspects. She’s the cat wrestler.
Frederick is the brick and mortar guy, working with sound, direction, venues, and producers. The two work together to secure reservations.
The group has just completed a first season at the Camelot Theater performing The Rogue Suspects Motown Soul Revue. They are booked for another Camelot show from August 19 to September 12 with Spotlight on Aretha Franklin, featuring the group and their three singers – Celine, Jennifer Abdo and Jade Chavis.
The group has opened for big names over the years including James Brown, Peter Frampton, Maceo Parker, Michael McDonald, the Brubeck Brothers, Tower of Power, Pablo Cruise and many more. And the Suspects were the group behind Bob Diddley, Craig Chaquico and others who played in the best clubs, wineries and concert halls in the valley.
Despite this, Celine and Frederick draw inspiration from their fellow band members: Price on guitar and vocals; Christo Pellani, drums; Helen Thea-Marcus, keyboard and voice; and the singers Abdo and Chavis.
“The members of this group from the start have been friends,” Frederick said. “Even those who have moved remain friends. Most of us talk to each other on a daily basis. The whole gang made me a better musician. The best music in the world is the music you make.
Céline attributes the longevity of the group to the love of the members for the music and for each other.
“We are a musical family,” she said. “We care deeply about each other and we all agree that nothing is more important than creating joy out of music.”
Celine was born and raised in Ashland in a musical family. “There was no TV, just music,” she said. “I started to sing in my car seat.”
She remembers listening to her parents’ vinyl records of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. “I closed my eyes and tried to imitate their sound.”
As a child, she was impressed by Wonder’s sense of rhythm and phrasing. “I don’t know why I’m drawn to soul and R&B, but it was really early on when I felt it,” she said.
In high school she was in the choir, orchestra and performed in all musicals. After graduating from high school, she studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Today she performs in several groups, some of which are iterations of the Rogue Suspects. She is also a full time music and dance teacher. She says it was difficult during the pandemic.
“We did a few shows online,” she said, “but it didn’t pay off well. I went to karaoke to keep my voice in tune.
Health and wellness has become a priority for Celine, helping her keep her voice in shape and allowing her to perform with energy.
“I became a plant-based vegan four years ago after having vocal issues due to my health,” she said. “I now have a certificate in herbal nutrition from eCornell online and have healed my body. I haven’t been sick for four years and my voice is louder than ever.
Celine recorded an All Originals album with multi-Grammy producer Narada Michael Walden. “Can You Feel the Music” is available on iTunes and Bandcamp, and you can listen to songs on its website, shaeceline.com.
Frederick, 70, has been in the music game for a long time. He and Suspects co-founder Price met at a show where they were both hired to replace other musicians in a band called Blues Hawks. The two had moved to Rogue Valley from California, Frederick from Carmel and Price from Los Angeles.
They stayed with the Blues Hawks for about a year before forming the Usual Suspects, who morphed into Rogue Suspects due to a branding issue.
Frederick is a fifth generation musician and his children carry on the tradition. His daughter, a recent graduate of the University of Oregon, is a concert violinist and teaches music in the Medford school system. His son is a jazz and rock guitarist and bassist.
“I grew up in the 50s and 60s and played in rock bands and the high school jazz band,” he said. “I started playing professionally at the age of 17.
Like most musicians, Frederick worked a number of day jobs along the way, to support his musical life.
“I worked in steel mills and construction work, and I was in the merchant navy,” he said. “But most of my life I have made a living from music, film, television, and music production.”
He worked as a cameraman and audio technician for several national television stations. And he’s worked with film and commercial production companies while playing music at blues and jazz festivals, nightclubs, and concerts.
“I found music and media to work well together. So I started my own production company and provided production services to other filmmakers, ”he said.
He also owned a recording studio in Monterey, which he sold before moving to Rogue Valley in 1997. Here he worked as a producer for PBS and then developed projects for KOBI.
“I produced some of the country’s first full length HD projects, featuring Crater Lake National Park and the Oregon Caves.”
The Rogue Suspects has done a lot of fundraising with benefit shows. The suspects and their friends built a medical triage camp in Nepal during the earthquakes, sent medics to Haiti, provided water and shelter for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for victims of local fires.
Frederick takes an ironic take on the challenges of making music in Rogue Valley.
“I always say the great thing about this valley is that there are so many great musicians; and the down side of this valley is that there are so many great musicians.
This can sometimes mean a competitive atmosphere, with more groups than venues. In fact, not all bands survive on their music alone.
“We are one of the few bands in the region to make a living from performing, recording and producing music,” he said.
Frederick has a lot of praise for his fellow band members.
“Shae entered the band at the age of 21 with the loudest vocal prowess I’ve ever heard,” he said. “Over the past 12 years we’ve added Jennifer and Jade, both powers in their own right, and we’ve been able to accept most music from artists.”
When drummer David Bolen left the Suspects to create his own project, Christo Pellani jumped into the niche.
“We were happy for Dave and sad to see him go, but he does come back every now and then,” Frederick said. “We were lucky that there was a dear friend and a monster drummer behind the scenes. Pellani was a former drummer for the ’80s rock band Air Supply. We convinced him to leave LA and put him to work.
The new Suspects member also had big shoes to fill with the retirement of keyboardist Don Harriss.
“Don will intervene on some future Suspects projects,” he said. “In her place is Helen Thea-Marcus, a wonderful keyboardist from Ashland with great style and a sound with a classic atmosphere all her own.”
Although Frédéric is optimistic about the future, he is realistic.
“Artists will be the last to return to work and those who will be paid the least,” he said.
“I grew up at a time when being a musician was a profession in which you could make a good living, own a house and raise children. There was even a section of the Yellow Pages phone book dedicated to them.
“I want to see the Rogue Valley music scene build in this direction.”
For more information, a concert schedule and booking contacts, visit roguesuspects.com.
Contact Ashland writer Jim Flint at [email protected]