Mister D: I had the pleasure of meeting Eric and his gorgeous wife, Jana, at Radio City…both extremely personable and kind. And not only is Jana stunningly gorgeous, but she’s a fabulous singer in her own right…check out her2002 CD of romantic standards, “At Last.” Eric ain’t bad either! 🙂
Providing solid backing to others — and each other
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Published December 12, 2004
Fleetwood Mac’s tour manager couldn’t believe it. He had just learned that the group’s new backup singer from the Twin Cities was married to a pilot — not a musician, per usual.
“I am a musician, too,” trumpeter Eric Wangensteen told him.
“Want to audition for Bette Midler’s tour?” asked the road manager, who was about to switch to Midler’s tour.
Wangensteen, a Northwest Airlines pilot on furlough, didn’t have an audition tape with him while visiting his wife in Chicago. But his Web site had samples of his work. Four days later, without an audition or audition tape, the trumpeter was in New York, where he spent the next 12 weeks rehearsing for Midler’s tour, 14 to 16 hours a day. Then he hit the road.
“I got to play live in front of more people than any trumpet player in the whole world probably,” said Wangensteen, who tonight winds up a satisfying and lucrative year of touring with Midler at Target Center in Minneapolis. “There aren’t trumpet players doing 10- to 15,000-seat arenas. This is a very rare opportunity.”
Wangensteen gets good grades from the man who brokered the gig for him.
“Eric has a great attitude,” said Marty Hom, tour manager for Midler and Fleetwood Mac. “He’s always positive. He’s a great musician. He’s a consummate professional.”
Hom was equally glowing about Jana Anderson, Wangensteen’s wife, who toured with Fleetwood Mac. She and other backup singers took over the vocal duties of Christine McVie, who retired from the group.
“Jana is a breath of fresh air,” Hom said. “She’s fun to be around — an outgoing personality, so happy to be there. They’re both fantastic people, so easy to deal with, always so upbeat.”
Time together on tour
For much of the past 15 months, Wangensteen, 36, and Anderson, 37, have been on the road with their respective tours. Their friends might wonder how their two-year-old marriage fares, but the trumpeter and the singer say that they have the best of both worlds.
As a Northwest pilot’s wife, Anderson flies free to New York. She stays free in the ritzy hotel where the Midler band is bunking; her husband gets plenty of meal money from his boss (and scrumptuous backstage meals), and he only has to work five or six hours a day three or four days a week. Plus, the missus gets to watch a grand pop extravaganza for free.
Anderson has no complaints about her little vacations. Or the NBA games, Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows she and Wangensteen got to see because they had the right Bette.
“We’re out for a month or six weeks at a time, and then when we’re off, we’re together 24 hours a day,” said Wangensteen during a three-day pre-Thanksgiving break. “So I think we get to spend more time together than most couples, especially quality time.”
Get them together and they talk like each other’s biggest fan. She brags about him; he interjects important things about her career. The pilot’s son has 400 to 500 jazz CDs in their north suburban townhouse, and the minister’s daughter has a similar number of pop and funk CDs.
Their tours with the big-ticket superstars have been about as different as their musical collections. Fleetwood Mac’s preconcert sound check was the same two songs, “The Chain” and “Dreams,” every night. Midler and her group do a two-hour rehearsal before every show.
Anderson traveled on Fleetwood Mac’s private plane. Wangensteen rode with the boys on the bus, which he preferred. They got to hang out with Midler, who always wanted to be included, even if it meant drinking beer out of a plastic cup in a dive bowling alley.
Anderson’s world tour was full of adventures with Mick, Stevie and Lindsey.
“My first sip of beer [ever] was at the Guinness Brewery,” the occasional wine drinker said. “I’ve never been drunk.”
But she did get “loopy” — as in seasick — on a Fleetwood Mac deep-sea fishing excursion off Perth, Australia.
Met in California
Wangensteen and Anderson met in 1994 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The pilot heard about a hot singer who was from Minnesota, so he went and chatted her up at a gig during a break. They didn’t start dating until five years later, ended up playing in bands together and married in October 2002, 11 months after moving back to the Twin Cities and just a few weeks after he had been laid off by Northwest.
With her band, Jana and the One, she performs periodically in the Santa Barbara area. She recently performed at a charity gala thrown by actor Michael Douglas.
Anderson landed the Fleetwood Mac gig almost as quickly as Wangensteen hooked up with Midler. An emergency replacement for a pregnant singer, she was hired without a demo tape but with recommendations from the woman she replaced and from Don Henley, with whom she had worked.
“I had one run-through and a 15,000-seat arena the next night,” said Anderson, who signed on in September 2003. “And then we taped the [live] DVD on my 10th show.”
If the airline calls Wangensteen back to work, he’ll try to postpone it if he can. Not only does he make more money playing music than he did as a pilot, but he knows that there’s only a small community of trumpeters who get to go on big-time tours.
When it’s over, he hopes to return to his bar band, the Good, the Bad and the Funky.
“I have a ton of fun playing those shows [with Midler], but it’s almost the same as if I’m playing the Minnesota Music Cafe,” he said. “There’s not a dramatic difference between playing at the Dakota [Jazz Club] or playing for 15,000 people. Visually, it’s different.”
“We give it 100 percent,” Anderson interjected, “no matter what.”
Hometown: Maple Grove
Musical beginnings: At 3 or 4, she sang “Matchmaker” at her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
Fun facts: In 1987, she was the first runner-up for Miss Minnesota; she won the swimsuit competition but not the talent. In ’88, she won for two weeks on TV’s “Star Search.”
Big break: She sang in Rupert’s Orchestra, where Prince and producer Oliver Lieber discovered her.
Other Minnesota credits: She sang on various Prince projects, including “1-800-NEW-FUNK,”Graffiti Bridge” and “Party Man”; recorded a CD of lullabies for Target.
National credits: Backup singer for Don Henley, Sheena Easton (who recorded one of Anderson’s songs), Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and others.
Current groups: Sugar Divaz in Twin Cities, Jana and the One in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Recordings: “At Last,” a 2002 collection of jazz standards.
Web site: www.janaanderson.com
Next up: Forming Jana and the Platinum Royal Orchestra in the Twin Cities and making a pop CD.
Musical beginnings: He started trumpet at 9 and began gigging with jazz bands as a teen.
Fun fact 1: He became a certified pilot at 16 and a commercial pilot at 18; related to surgeon Owen Wangensteen, namesake of two buildings at University of Minnesota.
Big break: His wife introduced him to Marty Hom, tour manager for Fleetwood Mac and Bette Midler.
Minnesota credits: High and Mighty; R Factor; Synergy; George Faber; Northshore Big Band; Sugar Divaz; the Good, the Bad and the Funky.
National credits: Midler; Mary Wilson.
Current groups: Midler; Jana and the One; Sugar Divaz; the Good, the Bad and the Funky.
Web site: www.ericmusic.com
Next up: Playing with Jana and the Platinum Royal Orchestra; making a jazz CD.