Ahead of Celebration at the Station, Jesica and Clayton DeLong of A La Mode answer The Pitch Questionnaire
In A La Mode, husband and wife duo Clayton and Jesica “Baby J” DeLong deftly tap into Kansas City’s nostalgia for the wild Prohibition days of yesteryear. Their hot-jazz swing sound is accentuated by Jesica’s sultry vocals (and her way with a kazoo), Clayton’s jazzy guitar tones, and, often, a collection of other musicians and dancers that join them onstage. A La Mode performs regularly all over town — at the Phoenix, the P.S. Speakeasy (inside Hotel Phillips), Chaz on the Plaza. But we’re especially eager to see their act at this year’s Celebration at the Station, on Sunday, May 27, at Union Station. Below, Jesica and Clayton answer The Pitch Questionnaire.
Hometown: We are both from KC. Jes is from Raytown. Clayton is from Parkville.
Current neighborhood: Volker.
Your drink: We both love classic cocktails. Jes’s signature cocktail is the French 75. Clay’s cocktail is a Tito’s press. We both love Jameson.
Where’s dinner? Go Chicken Go after every gig at Chaz on the Plaza. It’s a ritual.
What does KC need more of? Jazz and cocktails. And streetcar extensions, especially toward 18th and Vine.
What is the last thing you laughed at? Trailer Park Boys, season 12. We’re mega fans.
What do you do when you’re not playing music? Booking music with our entertainment company, Awestruck Entertainment or planning prohibition-themed events with our event company, Prohibition Parties. We love to take our weenie dogs Petunia and Maggie to the park and we love going out to watch and support our fellow KC musicians.
What are you currently binge watching? Peaky Blinders, Trailer Park Boys, and Game of Thrones (waiting for the last season patiently). Jesica’s favorite show is RuPaul’s Drag Race.
What makes Kansas City special? Superior jazz, cocktails, and BBQ, but mostly the artist community here in KC. All types: visual, musical, and performance artists, all come together to create an atmosphere in our city that is truly unique. We are so proud to be a part of it all.
The last book you read: Jesica: Stephen King, IT. I’m a horror freak. Clayton: Victor Wooten, The Music Lesson
What’s your hidden talent? Clayton: Finding morel mushrooms. Don’t ask me where I find them, it’s a secret. Jesica: I have a natural talent with children of all ages. They love me.
What is your guilty pleasure? Massages, we get one or two each month.
Best advice you ever got: Don’t make excuses, just try harder.
What’s your greatest struggle right now? Getting Jesica to wake up before noon.
What is your soapbox? Traditional jazz is making a comeback.
The last album you listened to: Clayton: Wes Montgomery Trio. Jesica: Blossom Dearie, They Say It’s Spring
How did you two meet? We met at a jazz club called Jardines that used to be on the Plaza. We started working together to create our band and swore we’d never “mix business and pleasure,” but that didn’t last long. After dating for eight years, we finally got married last October. It was meant to be.
How does Kansas City’s jazz history impact your music? The history of prohibition in Kansas City during the 1920’s is our main inspiration. KC was like the Las Vegas of the 20’s, people came from all over the country to freely drink, dance, and listen to swing music. We try to take our audiences back in time with our musical style and song choices, as well as costumes, props, dancers, and the venues themselves.
What makes the Prohibition era so captivating? Art Deco fashion and architecture, the rebellious nature of drinking in speakeasies, flappers and the early days of women’s lib, and of course, the birth of hot jazz and swing!
Which Kansas City musicians inspire you? Rod Fleeman, Dave Stephens, Lonnie McFadden, and the legendary Marilyn Maye, just to name a few.
What is the best part about performing with your spouse? Stealing kisses in between songs.
What is the worst part? Clayton: Waiting on J to get ready for the gig!
How does one become a kazoo master? Jesica: I played the kazoo along to recordings of Louis Armstrong from the 20’s and 30’s. I try to mimic his style and make the kazoo sound like a raunchy, muted trumpet at a burlesque show. It seems to work.