One of Wisconsin’s best-known party bands, Boogie and the Yo-yoz has been on the scene since 1995 and is still going strong.
Paige Baker, 34, has been the band’s sole female front runner since 2012 and still loves every minute of it. In a way she was destined to end up lending her vocals to the band, even though the path to get there wasn’t easy.
Born into a family of musicians and talented vocalists on her mom’s side, Baker’s affinity for music was second nature. “My family’s always been in music,” she said. “My grandmother was in a band. She always had music around us.”
While attending Auburndale Music Fest as a Spencer High School student, Baker set her dreams on one day joining a small, up-and-coming band with a funny name – Boogie.
But until that opportunity arose, she fulfilled her passion for singing by joining Wausau-based metal band, Get Bent. The band’s style was much different than the “everything band” that Boogie describes itself as, but there weren’t many openings for a female singer.
“It’s hard to find a band that needs a female fronted band,” she explained. “As much as I didn’t care to sing that type of music, there are very limited amounts of bands that have a female, so you just take what you can get.”
Eventually, Baker decided to part ways with Get Bent and declared that the only reason she’d ever want to be in another band was if Boogie and the Yo-yoz needed a female member. The very next week, she found out Boogie had put out a call for just that.
Now there was a chance to fulfill her teenage dream and be like the women she’d admired on stage. “I really looked up to their female singer,” Baker recalled. “As a female, seeing another female on stage is just really empowering.”
Since the band was so busy, the process took several months. “It felt like forever, because I wanted to be in the band so badly,” she said.
Women from all over the state tried out. One of the requirements was to have the ability to play piano and send in a video. The problem was, Baker didn’t know how to play.
She decided to try out anyway.
“I had actually faked learning a piece of music,” she said. “It took me weeks to learn this one part. I sent a video of me playing it, saying ‘oh, it’s not the best right now. I’m rusty on piano.’”
Baker was narrowed down with four other girls, who each joined a live performance at Hub City Days as a final trial. Though thrilled to be the one chosen, Baker had to admit to the others that she didn’t actually know how to play piano.
“We joke about it now,” she said. “They hired a pianist because I couldn’t play piano, but they said [hiring me] was the best decision they ever made.”
By then she already knew guitarist Eric Peters, who’d been in the band since it started, but had yet to get to know the band’s longtime drummer, Kevin Baker, her future husband. He also acts as the band’s director and sends all of the members their parts.
Six years later, Baker has had a lifetime of experiences as a full-time performer completing about 60 gigs a year – down from an average of 90 performances, due to band members’ growing families. Baker herself is the proud mom of a 9-month old daughter and credits her mother’s support for being able to continue doing what she loves.
One of Baker’s favorite parts of being in the band is traveling to places she’d never imagined going to otherwise, including trips to Hawaii, Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida, and the Dominican Republic. Able to hold its own on the music scene, Boogie and the Yo-yoz has performed with the lead singers of Toto, Journey, The Romantics, and Santana. In 2019, the band will return to Florida in early February for another performance with Santana, Kool and the Gang, and The Romantics.
One of Baker’s favorite gigs is the annual Summer Send-Off in Greenville, Wisconsin, a memorial concert event for Boogie’s former singer Bill Tesch which provides a scholarship for an aspiring musician.
To prep for a show, the eight or so band members practice separately in their corners of the state and play a new song together for the first time at the performance. For its big Christmas concert, practice begins in August.
Baker has no plans to step away from Boogie and the Yo-Yo’z anytime soon. The experience has been nothing short of life-changing.
“The band’s given me my life,” she said. “Without the band, I wouldn’t have my husband, my family, my friends.”
Though band members have aged and switched out over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication to a good time for everyone who attends one of their concerts.
“Boogie just keeps on evolving and changing – in a good way,” Baker said. “We have a lot of older members, and the band is still killing it every week. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re amazing.”
Catch the latest from Boogie and the Yo-Yo’z at Yoyoz.com.