Sleder’s Family Tavern has been a Traverse City tradition for the past 130 years. Everything from “Kissing The Moose,” to their burgers, to great service and their music on the porch series have made them a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
To celebrate, owners Deb and Brian Cairns are flying in Gulf Shores, Alabama singer-songwriter Lisa Christian.
“I have been working the club scene in Gulf Shores, Alabama for the past 10 years and Brian and Deb Cairns winter down here,” said Christian. “One night they approached me after one of my shows. They told me how much they love my music and we got to be great friends. Well, they asked me to perform at Sleder’s 125 anniversary. Now I get to come back again and I would literally fly anywhere to perform for the Cairns -- they are great people.”
This Friday, Christian will host a “name that tune” contest (a take on a game she does back home) for various prizes. On Saturday she will perform at 6 p.m. under the tent in celebration of Sleder’s turning 130 years old. In between it all there will be a golf tournament and a silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the Michigan’s Women Care Program.
“We are going to have actual prizes whereas back home I award virtual prizes,” Christian said of her musical trivia contest. “We are going to do a lot of one hit wonders, songs with names in them, songs from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Then I will be back on Saturday night to perform.”
Christian grew up in Philadelphia where she was musically influenced by the “Philly Soul scene” and her older siblings.
“Everyone in my family played the guitar, so I started at the age of 11 and by 12 I had my first garage band. In high school I was sneaking into clubs and playing,” said Christian. “I soon realized there was really no future in going to college, so I graduated from high school on a Friday and went to work on the following Monday making salad dressing for $3.15 an hour and playing guitar at night. And minus making the dressing, I have been doing that ever since.”
Instead of making salad dressing, today Christian’s day job is as a popular air personality during the mid-day shift on Sunny 105 fm in Gulf Shores. Before arriving to Gulf Shores, where Christian has become one of the top entertainers in the region, she bounced around the country performing.
“I bounced around after high school trying the Nashville thing and then I connected with some musicians in the Atlanta area and that was a lot of fun. I got to perform at the Olympics and also Lilith Fair in 1998 with Bonnie Raitt. I also toured the country a little bit opening for various acts.”
She eventually discovered Gulf Shores and finally has found her musical home.
“Gulf Shores is a great place for a musician. This is a really unique place and a lot of tourists come through. You can work six nights or seven nights a week if you want,” said Christian. “While I like traveling, there is something to be said about being able to perform close to home every night. With the Internet I am able to promote my music and CD all over the world, so instead of spending a bunch of money on gas to travel hundreds of miles to perform to 30 people, I have found this approach to be more cost effective.”
Christian has also added another career to her musical arsenal to supplement her income. One night while she was performing, Christian was approached by the general manager of Sunny 105 fm about going into radio.
“He liked my voice and asked if I would like to host a new show on Sunday nights showcasing the local music scene. We have so many great musicians here I jumped at the chance. Then they had an opening on the morning show and I took that. Eventually, we went with a syndicated morning show so I took over middays. I love it -- I am on from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and I still do the Sunday night show.”
As for her songwriting, Christian says she is a student of the craft, keeping an open mind and searching out what works the audience.
“Some songwriters are snobby about playing cover songs. But I don’t think there is any better way to integrate what is good and what works and what people like to listen to than by learning great songs. As I was learning other peoples’ songs, I would say that is kind of cool, and I started writing my own songs.”
First time attendees to a Lisa Christian concert are often taken by her musical prowess. Her local paper describes her as “An unholy cross between Diana Krall and Ani DiFranco.”
“It is not your standard chick with a guitar music -- I have a lower, grittier voice. Plus I play a big fat jazz guitar, an Epiphone hollow body similar to what Wes Montgomery plays,” said Christian. “My stuff tends to be blues, soul and jazz oriented. I like Motown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and a lot of Philly soul music. I do about half and half when it comes to covers and originals.”
Celebrate Sleder’s turning 130 this weekend with Lisa Christian performing both Friday and Saturday nights. The Corvairs will also perform on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. For complete details on all the activities including a golf tournament and auction to benefit Michigan’s Women Care Program, go to sleders.com or call (231) 947-9213.