Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Affiliated Sites | Home RSS

Small-town girl, city boy ...

Making beautiful music together

April 16, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - She's a small-town girl, from rural Carney in the Upper Peninsula.

He's a city boy, born and raised in east Detroit.

He's been playing instruments since he was a child. She's only been singing for a few years.

Article Photos

But together, John Mallo and Rebecca Ferguson are finding perfect harmony as Rebecca and John, performing everything from classics like "At Last" to current hits like Cee Lo's "Forget You" for captivated audiences.

They're working on a CD of original music they hope to have available for sale within the month.

Mallo, who grew up in what is now called Eastpointe, names his mother as an early influence on his love for music.

Fact Box

5 for Ferguson, Mallo

We asked Rebecca Ferguson and John Mallo to list five examples of music one might hear at one of their shows. In addition to originals,they listed:

Tori Amos Alison Krauss

Annie Lennox Colbie Caillat "standards"

On the Web

"My mom listened to the hip stations all the time," he said. "I am a Motown guy. And I love The Beatles. I guess I would say I have eclectic taste ... Uriah Heep, Led Zepplin ... I was going to concerts constantly."

As a kid, Mallo started out on the drums.

"I took lessons from a guy who was in Soupy Sales' house band," he said. "But then I got into girls and baseball and he told me, 'Maybe you should just play baseball.' So I did."

But Mallo's love for music drew him back.

"I became a bass player by default," he said. "I was in a reggae band based out of Big Bay and got into it. The bass is the perfect marriage of the drums and the guitar."

James Jamerson, who played on many classic Motown hits, was a bass player Mallo admires.

"I don't idolize musicians, but he's the one," Mallo said. "I learned all his basslines, the way he'd play them. I don't do them as well but ..."

In 1980, Mallo said he "escaped" lower Michigan to move to the U.P. He taught for several years, including at the Powell Township School in Big Bay.

"Then I became a stay-at-home dad, carpenter and musician," he said. He and his wife, Margi Licht-Mallo, live in Marquette and have three kids. Son Casey lives in Mexico, son Andrew is in Honduras, and daughter Savannah is a senior at Marquette Senior High School.

"My daughter can listen to Motown tunes and tell you instantly if James Jamerson is playing on it," he said. "She knows. She can't sit down if it's him, she's up and out of the chair dancing. It's eerie."

All three of his children help him keep current with music.

"My daughter turned me on to Colbie Calliat and Christina Perry," he said. "Casey has introduced me to techno-Spanish. And Andrew did a hip-hop show on Radio X.

"Musicians should like music," Mallo said. "And people like good songs."

Rebecca Ferguson, nee Kramer, definitely likes good songs. While she didn't start singing until 2001, that wasn't the start of her musical interest.

"I have a lot of musical influences, but my grandpa, Adolph, was a big influence," she said. "He played the violin and the piano and played a lot of standards, waltzes and folksy tunes."

Ferguson followed in his instrumental footsteps, but wasn't a vocalist until she came to Northern Michigan University.

"I didn't start singing until my first year of college," she said. "I decided to take voice lessons and it went from there on. I am classically trained and did the opera thing and musical theater for a long time."

She and her filmmaker husband, Dana, have a son, Sebastian, who's 2 years old. She also has two stepsons, Jake and Oliver.

How did performers with such diverse backgrounds as Ferguson and Mallo meet?

"Derrell (Syria) asked us both to perform at one of his 'and Friends' library things," Mallo said. "We went to Gary Parkkonen's house for rehearsal and started working on songs. We clicked."

The pair decided to try a duet act.

"We have the same work ethic and we both love music," Ferguson said.

"We practice a lot," Mallo said. "We want to know all the parts of the songs we do."

Ferguson provides most of the vocal power, while Mallo plays the guitar/guitar synthesizer.

"And I have a drum machine that I programmed. I hear myself playing the drums when I turn it on," he said.

The two are writing original songs as well for their CD, which will be called "Here We Are."

"John writes music from my life experiences," Ferguson said with a smile.

Mallo grinned in return: "It's true. I write like a 30-year-old woman. ... Really, the feelings are the same. Men and women are just different sometimes in how we express it."

Ferguson added: "John has encouraged me to start writing lyrics as well."

They're working together to get their original CD completed.

"Hopefully in a month or so," Mallo said. "We will be doing some festivals as a duet and we'd like to have some originals available for people to purchase of us playing together."

At performances, the duo offers a wide range of music.

"The coolest thing in music lately has been 'Glee,' so some of what we do is 'Glee-ish'," Mallo said. "For instance, we do 'Landslide' but in a way that's different. It appeals to a broader fan base."

To learn more about the duo or to find out when they are next performing, visit their Facebook page: pages/Rebecca-and-John/212842208728169

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web