After years of singing gospel music in her church in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, Sharlene Lamont has got her feet in the local New England music scene. Currently, she’s the flamboyant front woman for the club and event outfit The Hipshot Band LLC. Lamont’s story is rooted in the history of American music and her family history made it inevitable she would be on stage at this time in her life.
Lamont had initially been fan of The Hipshot Band LLC when she was asked to be a backing singer. Invited to a rehearsal after her church service earlier that Sunday, she was handed a microphone and a list of songs. She picked out “My Guy,” and despite being more of a gospel singer, she sang it well and passed the audition. A year later, when the band’s lead singer moved on, Lamont stepped up to the lead singer position. It began at a popular Quincy, Massachusetts night spot.
“The first gig we had was at the Cathay Pacific,” she said. “I remember the first song. I was shaking I was ready to throw up and everything. It was bad. I mean it was bad for me internally, but it was really good when we did that cocktail set in the beginning.” Audience members approached her to compliment her singing and her performance. Being a lead singer soon became a joy for Lamont. Entertaining audiences and making them smile pushed her joy button.
“With everything going on in the world,” she began, “people need that outlet, a place where they can be free. I like being that conduit to help bring that to them.”
Lamont was raised by a music family in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. One of seven children, her father was a former member of Billy Ward & The Dominos. Her dad had shared the stage with Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson.
“They were pivotal and prominent and shaped a lot of things that relates to different types of blues and rock and roll. When I was born, my dad was already out of the music business, so we really wouldn’t know that much about that.” Yet, Lamont’s siblings became singers, performances artists, writers, and graphic designers. Her sister became an attorney.
A few years back, Lamont heard from someone connected to a Doo Wop community who invited her to join a club whose members include the children of Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter, Ruth Brown, and other big names. Lamont got to go up on stage at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts to receive an award when Billy Ward And The Dominoes were inducted into a Massachusetts hall of fame. While her father had to deal with “whites only” clubs and other forms of racial discrimination during the Doo Wop era, Ms. Lamont came along in our current scene where such things are only in history books and in memories of older musicians.
“No. I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced it on the music scene,” she said. “The places that we play, they like all different types of music. I’m sure my father had gone to places where he wasn’t welcome. I personally have not but I know people who have.” Her father had passed those stories down to an older brother who was interviewed by Marv Goldberg about her father’s experiences.
“I’m just speaking from my own personal experience,” Lamont said. “Based on what I’ve seen and the way, I’ve been embraced by so many people, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s actually beautiful.”
Growing up, Lamont and her siblings would prepare shows and skits to perform for their father when he came home from work. “Daddy was also singing something or singing to us, teaching my brother how to sing. You’d see my father on the back porch with his hand on his chest and you’d see him singing something. But, I never thought I’d become a singer at all.”
Lamont’s gospel training makes it possible for her to take music to a personal space. “You are reaching soul, you are touching people’s lives in that same fashion,” she said. “Being exposed to gospel, when it comes to the lyrics and the message that’s being conveyed, it touches one’s soul. It’s a healing thing. The goal is to reach someone.”
Lamont’s enthusiasm for her lead singer job music scene is because of its diversity. She is particularly intrigued by the amount of crossover between genres. “There was a time when a person would only sing certain types of music,” she said. “Now, there seems like there’s no boundaries when it comes to that. “
Lamont points to one particular sax player that she admires for his soulful performances. “He made a comment to me one time, he said that his father was Frank Sinatra and his mother was Aretha Franklin,” she recounted. “Somebody made a comment once: ‘He wants to be black so bad.’ I said ‘It’s not that. It’s what resonates with him. That’s what he feels comfortable with identifying. It’s a feeling. It’s not about being black or white.”
Lamont has been known to pal around with players and singers from the greater-Boston/New England blues scene. She is particularly fond of performing at Parker Wheeler’s Sunday Night Blues Party at The Grog in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
“I did a show there with Parker Wheeler, and Ken Clark, and Amadee,” she said. “They do a blues thing every Sunday night down at the Grog. And that place, I tell you, I love going there. Going there is like going into an old juke joint. That’s my thing. If I was going to be some kind of singer, I was going to be a blues singer or like a piano lounge, dimly lit. That kind of thing is what I saw myself as. I resonate with the blues.”
Lamont finds a different kind of freedom in blues music and in blues clubs. She attended juke joints in New York City where she might see Clarence Carter one week, Denise Lasalle another. “There people have a very relaxed, free environment at the Grog,” she recounted. “I’m supposed to do something Anthony Geraci. Oh my God. I did a party with him one time. I didn’t know who he was at the time. Lenny Bradford was on bass. Scotty was on sax. I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the stage with Ms. Washington, Toni Lynn Washington.”
After her accomplishments these last five years, Lamont would like to move on to recording her own original music. She has been talking to Jackie Wilson’s son Bobby Wilson about her studio plans. Wilson asked her about it when they met up at North Shore Music Theatre last September. “He said ‘Let’s get to it,’” she recounted. “I think I better have something in my hip before I see him.”
For her closing comments Lamont said “I love my mama. She’s been my rock, man. She’s held it down. My fathers the only man she ever married. He passed in 1991. He was the best dad ever.”