This group of singers is all about Spam

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There are few things that pay homage in the way a song can. Whether it be a tribute to a true love, cherished memory or even life philosophy, a song binds words and emotion in a manner hard to replicate in the absence of a beat.

If a song is a potent means of esteemed expression, then the Spamettes have blown the lid off praise.

The quartet, complimented by a bass, keyboard and drums, can’t get enough of their namesake — Spam — and for almost two decades have fused varieties of music with hilarious lyrics to demonstrate their devotion to Hormel Foods’ infamous lunch meat.

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“I owe my soul to the company of Hormel,” sang group co-founder Denise Condon during their rendition of “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis. To the Spamettes, it’s “Sixteen Hogs.”

The offshoots don’t stop. From their original two songs, “Mr. Spamman” and “Stand by Your Spam,” the Spamettes have morphed the messages of “Y-M-C-A,” “Camelot” and “New York, New York” to suit their theme.

And they get a kick out of it, too.

“Sometimes we have a hard time practicing because we have so much fun,” said singer Nancy Heimer, who joined the group in 1996.

Indeed, the laughter didn’t stop on- and offstage as the four, dressed in the signature blue and yellow, hammed up their act with choreography, props and unending smiles during a recent performance.

“It’s so fun,” said Rochester resident Peg Mikkelson, a self-proclaimed former groupie and good friend of co-founder Sonia Larson. “They’re so clever. You know they write all their own songs. It’s just a stitch.”

The group began in 1990 through the efforts of Larson and Condon, who were featured with two other former group members at the first annual Spam Jam. Larson said the group was the realization of her lifelong dream of becoming Miss Hammy Swinette, also known as Tammy Wynette, co-writer and performer of “Stand by Your Man.”

That’s, of course, “Stand by Your Spam” as far as the Spamettes are concerned.

The group also has close ties to Spam’s corporate creator. Condon and Heimer both work in the research and development department of Hormel, and Larson’s husband retired from the company.

Other group members include singer, Leslie Meyer; bass player, Theresa Iverson; drummer, Rebecca Mealy; and keyboardist, Pat Schulke, whose husband also works at Hormel.

The women say since their advent, they’ve entertained audiences from Austin to California, typically rehearsing about every other week.

The Spamettes claim to parody everything from Big Band music to ’50s rock ’n’ roll to the Beatles to country music. They’ve performed in front of tour groups and at conventions, fundraisers and private parties.

Both the moves and the tunes delight.

“They’re good singers, good musicians,” said Austin resident Lloyd Luehman, who donned a Spam shirt to one of the group’s recent shows.

The Spamettes would have been proud.

“We’re entertainment, and if Spam benefits, it’s all the better,” she said, adding, that it was an honor to pay tribute to a meat “that is such a staple in people’s lives.”