Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Veronica Klaus


Our Bestie chanteuse on all that jazz

Veronica Klaus with her dogs Charisse and Pearl. Photo: Jose A. Guzman Colon
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Longtime San Francisco music fans may have heard the sultry tones of at Cafe du Nord, The Elbo Room, Club 181, or Enrico's in North Beach. Klaus has also performed at countless local benefits and galas, bringing her classy sounds, often with the Tammy L. Hall Trio or accompanist Tom Shaw, to many venues for more than two decades.

"I also performed at the Lush Lounge on Polk Street for quite a while," added this year's Bestie-winning chanteuse for Best Female Cabaret Performer. Klaus' shows have ranged from intimate gigs to full concerts.

"A long time ago, I had a twelve-piece band called The Heart and Soul Revue," said Klaus. "We did a lot of R&B, old Ike & Tina Turner stuff, with ballads mixed in. Having a big band was great, and a nightmare. It's too hard to deal with coordinating so many people. I sort of cut it down and started doing more smaller jazz and cabaret sets."

Klaus, who has recorded four albums, said her recent jazz focus "was always there, but a different mix. I would call it an eclectic mix of jazz standards and cabaret. I guess I'm a bit of a musicologist. My interest in a lot of different genres started with Bette Midler. Her early albums were such an eclectic mix. Inspired by her, I started to study other songs and songwriters."

Klaus' 1997 debut CD was "mostly more R&B-modeled pop, which I wrote." The CD was nominated for a GLAMA Award for Best Female Artist. 2007's Live at the Lodge was recorded at the Regency Center's third floor lounge. Recorded as a benefit for Rainbow World Fund, Klaus shared the bill with gay folk-rock singer-composer Mark Weigel.

Something Cool, recorded in 2012 over three days, also became the source material for Klaus' fourth CD, the latest devoted to the musical tribute to singer-composer Peggy Lee.

Aided by a Kickstarter campaign, Klaus was able to get the funds to record and release her own music her way. Klaus credits her many collaborators, but still admits that when self-producing, "unfortunately you have to do so much. This last year has been about rethinking things, priorities," she said.

Focusing on Peggy Lee's music at her recent Feinstein's concert proved to be a great match. "There's a really rich understatement that she possessed," said Klaus. "I like her music because you have to get inside her world, inside her voice. It's not really showy. It's very transportive. There was something very intriguing to me about her voice."

Offering some perspective on music genres, Klaus said, "Jazz singers used to be called popular singers' that was when jazz was popular music. Peggy Lee is vastly underrated as a jazz singer, which is what she was. That's why I wanted to delve into her music. She recorded more than 150 songs, mostly for herself."

Klaus has also appeared in several films, including the locally filmed Transgender Tuesdays: A Clinic in the Tenderloin, and the wacky 1992 comic film Aliens Cut My Hair.

Veronica Klaus performing in 2014.

Another creative outlet includes cooking. Klaus has begun sharing her baking and dinner cuisine at pop-up events with invited guests, who enjoy a tempting homemade menu of meals.

"I do it as often as someone books it," said Klaus, "usually Saturday or Sunday brunches in my house. You don't have to wait in line. It's a really good time."

Born in Gillespie, Illinois, Klaus said her family life had its ups and down in an area known for its Festival of Coal.

"My parents are still there," she said. "I talk to them a lot. We get along well now, which was not always the case." Klaus' song "Black Diamond Days" includes references to her family and her coal-mining hometown roots. "It became a metaphor for my growing up there."

Looking both back and to the future is where the artist sees herself. "Turning fifty had something to do with re-thinking things; realizing what's realistic as far as music goes and saying I'm interested in this stuff, too. I don't have to be so myopic about choices.

"I can have more than just one style. I realized I'm not going to be this huge sensation. I don't have that sort of ambition; perhaps I used to ten or twenty years ago, if I ever did. Right now, it's about figuring out what I want to do that makes me happy and feel creative."

Klaus will perform at the April 2 Besties party, and on April 3 with her full concert, Spring Affair, both at Oasis, the new (and also Bestie-winning) nightclub.

"We're doing some of the stuff we haven't done in a while," said Klaus of her song list. "I wanted to do all of our favorites, but I'm still figuring out which songs." Klaus is also happy to perform in a familiar yet new venue.

"I remember the space from the 1990s," she added. "What I love about Oasis is that it's a community, a family, and most of these people in town, and who are having this resurgence of energy, are people that I know. And that's fantastic. Oasis really does feel like, 'Wow, our family is doing this.'"

See Veronica Klaus' Spring Affair, with the Tammy L. Hall Trio, Friday, April 3 at Oasis. $20. 7:30pm. 298 11th St.

Follow Veronica Klaus at

Veronica Klaus' YouTube channel.

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