by Kelly Merritt
Music lovers flock to places like Erin’s Isle and Café Alfredo for Cahlua & Cream. The musical duo of Don and Lesly Hale has been dazzling audiences with familiar tunes for decades and they are still one of Naples’ biggest hit acts, performing everything from jazz standards to current hits. Even though many of these hits date back to the 50’s, the couple manages to keep them fresh and enjoyable. Their renditions of songs like “All of Me,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “At Last” still get people on their feet.
The Hales keep their repertoire updated to include the latest songs climbing the charts, from artists like Pharrell, The Black Eyed Peas and Bruno Mars. Some of the most popular songs they sing include dance hits like “Believe” by Cher, Lou Bega’s “Mambo #5” and “Together Again” by Janet Jackson.
They bring the house down with the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” and songs like “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner and Gloria Gaynor’s dance anthem “I Will Survive.” People who boogied down to artists like Alicia Bridges (“I Love the Nightlife”) and Donna Summer won’t leave disappointed. The nostalgia continues when they perform the love song touchstone “Could I Have This Dance” by Anne Murray and “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers.
While the Hales understand that most of their fans want to hear songs they know, they have included original songs on their CDs. They’ve recorded four of them.
“Performing music is the only job we have, and during the season here in Naples. It’s not uncommon to work seven nights of the week,” says Lesly Hale. “As a matter of fact, one year we performed 40 nights consecutively and including setting up, tearing down, performing, and traveling to the jobs, we spend anywhere from six-eight hours per job, and of course much more if we need to travel to the east coast for a performance.”
Despite the number of hours the couple spends on performance time, Mrs. Hale says that’s ‘just the proverbial tip of the iceberg’. They spend
considerable time working on new material and administering the business of their musical careers.
“Don and I started performing as “Cahlua & Cream” in 1985, based out of Syracuse, New York and spent 52 weeks of the year performing in hotel lounges and night clubs,” says Mrs. Hale. “We performed in venues in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Delaware before becoming married in 1990.”
They became parents in 1992 and quickly realized how challenging traveling with a child was, especially when their son aged into his school years.
“Fortunately for us, we began traveling to Florida to perform at a North Naples nightclub, Kakis, late in 1992 and we came down for a month at a time to perform there five nights a week from 9 p.m.-1:30 a.m., the late shift so to speak,” she says. “In 1993 we were offered a job at that nightclub performing from 5–9 p.m. five nights a week so we jumped at the opportunity.”
That’s when the Hales packed up and relocated to Bonita Springs, and then Naples after the birth of their second child. When Kakis, then called ‘Calvins’, closed they began performing in country clubs. Now they perform regularly at Erin’s Isle, Café Alfredo in Naples and The Sandy Parrot and Groove Street in Ft. Myers.
“We spend the summers performing in the northern US and we’ve entertained in venues as far west as Minnesota and as far east as Maine,” says Mrs. Hale. “We have no favorite venue – just as long as people enjoy our performance and are having a good time we’re delighted to be at their club.”
Cahlua & Cream is a familiar act at numerous fundraisers around Naples as well, including the Neighborhood Health Clinics yearly fundraiser for the past decade, benefit concerts for the Gulf Coast High School Marching Band and Guadalupe Center, Avow Hospice, and The United Way of Southwest Florida.
“We are members of The Moorings Presbyterian Church in Naples where I am a member of the choir and called upon to do solo work at times during services and recently appeared as replacement headliners on The Pride of America, a cruise ship in the Hawaiian Islands,” says Mrs. Hale of the three weekly shows they performed including “A Little Rock & Soul”, “An R&B Revue” and the main show with backing from the ship’s band, “Dazzling Divas” in which they featured the music of Whitney Houston, Donna Summers, Mariah Carey, Natalie Cole, and Tina Turner. “We had a wonderful time and were very sad when our stint as guest entertainers came to an end.”
The Hales hope to reprise those performances on the ship sometime next year. Meanwhile, Life in Naples readers can catch Cahlua & Cream most Mondays at Erin’s Isle, some Tuesdays at The Sandy Parrot and most Wednesdays at Café Alfredo, along with some Fridays at Groove Street in Ft. Myers depending on their schedule and the many private functions they perform in country clubs throughout South Florida. For information on booking or locations where Cahlua & Cream are performing, visit their website at www.cahluaandcream.com.