Donnie Finnell has been a singer in the San Diego area for more than 20 years now, and loves to sing the classic songs made popular by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and specializes in the songs of Johnny Mathis.
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For booking information call: (619) 282-5714
Email address: [email protected]
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Chicago, Nashville and the Big Apple
Donnie Finnell was born in Chicago, and raised in Nashville, but he really didn’t learn how to sing until he moved to New York City.
His aunt was choir director at the local church, and she also directed a children’s gospel choir, where Donnie and his sister were active members.
But Donnie didn’t get serious about singing until he moved to New York City at the age of 20, and this is where the real foundation of his singing began.
As Donnie affectionately recalls: “There is so much to say about that time. One of the things that I’ll always treasure is being backstage at a very popular night club in New York (The Living Room) and watching people like Arthur Prysock, Billy Daniels, Mable Mercer, Adam Wade, even Bobby Short and Marilyn Mae, they were the best of teachers.”
Donnie sought the expertise of a vocal coach during this time, and through him would get gigs.
“Also, I didn’t have my own band at the time, and I found it makes all the difference in the world. Everyone who heard me sing encouraged me to continue. And so I have.”
The Move to California
When Donnie Finnell moved to San Diego, he was able to finally form his own band.
“I have also learned a great deal from them, and I’m still learning from Gary Wilson, Roy Youngs and Martinez Kelly.”
He’d performed with this original band for many years.
“Gary plays keyboards and is very, very good. He knows me and knows how I sing and always gives me the right support. He also plays upright bass, guitar, and drums. He has a CD of his work.”
Gary Wilson, in his own right, is an exceptionally gifted musician. His album, “You Think You Really Know Me”, after 25 years had suddenly gained critical acclaim in New York, garnering fans such as Lou Reed and Beck, among others.
And Donnie Finnell goes on to compliment the other musicians from the original Company East group:
“Roy Youngs is one of the finest guitar players anyone could ever hope to work with and I truly mean that. He can play and style and play it well. He will come over to my place sometimes and he’ll help me with the guitar. Martinez Kelly plays drums. Marty keeps everything in the groove, and is a very reliable drummer. Marty and I have worked out a couple of songs together that the audience seems to enjoy, and we have fun with it.
The Current Lineup
And today, Donnie Finnell’s Company East primarily consists of Gary Wilson on keyboards and Carlos Rull on drums.
Both musicians are interchangeable on keyboards and drums.
Gary Wilson is also riding the success of his own critical acclaim, and Carlos Rull is a skilled drummer, pianist and composer; having performed with the popular big band, Big Time Operator, with shows in Las Vegas, Hollywood, Disneyland and Disney World. The new lineup is exceptionally intuitive now that the musicians have performed for a number of years now.
When I have them with me I just about feel there is no song I can’t do, and many times on stage I’ll call for a song that none of us have ever seen before and most of the time we are able to do it. They are fine players and I’m lucky to have them.”