Birthplace: Racine, WI
Lane Brody was born Lynn Connie Voorlas on September 24 (year unknown — between 1956-’60) in Oak Park, Illinois. The name aspect is confusing with Mrs. Brody as she’s recorded under 4 different ones: Lynn Voorlas, Lynn Nilles, and Lane Brody. A proper birth certificate simply called her Eleni, Greek for “Lane.”
Grandfather, Arisdis Voorlas (1880-1918), immigrated to the United States from Osmanga, Greece in 1904 and worked as a core maker in Racine, Wisconsin, where he also married Sophia Asshposia James. Lane’s parents, Gust Voorlas and Jane Ellis Voorlas, married in September of 1948 and owned a restaurant in Kenosha, ‘The Bill Of Fare,’ once located in Town & Country Plaza (off 75th Street and 47th Avenue). Lane and brother Peter often helped out at the family restaurant as young children. Lane vividly remembers early morning walks to Troughtline Elementary school, when she’d take a side route which passed Wybema’s Farm. “I would go out of my way and collect eggs for them,” Lane reminisces, “I still remember the feeling of the warm eggs in my hand.” Lane also often accompanied her father fishing off a pier on Lake Michigan.
Around age five, Lane began to sing. Attending Fratt Junior High School in only her sixth grade year, Lane’s pre-teens were spent at McKinley Junior High. She kept busy with extra-curricular activities typical of girls her age; cheerleading, gymnastics, etc., but with Lane, music always came first. She became immersed in music of the era, studying the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, and Johnny Mathis, becoming fixated on exploring her own vocal ability. Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick was the first artist Lane attempted to emulate as a budding singer, and admired Slick’s powerful voice. She’d take her guitar, purchased at the only music store on Main Street, down by the lake to practice, and eventually began writing her own songs. Absorbed through years of listening to big band and classical music, her father’s favorite, Lane had an appreciation for finely structured songs– which aided in composing her own.
At age 12, she formed a three-girl singing group who she performed with in talent contests and fashion shows. She took a starring role in McKinley’s production of Babes In Toyland, and made it into All City Choir. Many establishments come to mind when asked about favorite Racine/Kenosha spots. “My mom took me to Zahn’s Department Store,” she begins, “and I loved– and still love Nelsons Dime Store. The Loom, too.” The Voorlas family enjoyed eating out at Brusha’s Restaurant, The Spinning Wheel, and Corner House. “Boy Blue was the ice cream place across from Horlick ,” Lane adds, “and the Sausage Kitchen! Everyone loved the bombers there.”
A few of her fondest Racine memories come with mentions of Benson’s pecan kringle, Kiwanis Pancake Days at Memorial Hall, working beside her mother at Porters “and running through the galleries”, and the Rialto and Venetian theaters (“How I wish they hadn’t torn them down!”) She frequented The Corner — an old school house turned teen dance club — with friends from West Racine. When asked about late nights spent at The Corner, Lane laughs and admits, “those stories are too wild to convey.” By age 14, her small town existence began to expand.
Still actively participating in all types of extra-curriculars, Lane shined as a gymnast and further, performed flawlessly on the balance beam. Word reached the U.S Olympic committee that Racine was harboring a phenomenal talent, and they immediately sent scouts. “That was an exciting time,” recalls Lane. Though being sought for an international competition would be an achievement in itself for any athlete, the young Lane wasn’t swayed. The multi-talented girl didn’t wasn’t interested in gymnastics on a professional level; she wanted to be a singer. Offering her vocal chords instead, Lane generated interest worldwide when she became the voice of the XIV Olympics, singing the commercial, “You’ve Known Us All Along,” for Beatrice Foods — main sponsor for the games that year. It was reported that people found themselves listening for Lane and those commercials.
A successful string of jobs singing commercial jingles followed. Lending vocal talent to big-name companies like McDonalds, 7Up, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Juicy Fruit Gum, Dial, Clairol and Schlitz; the vivacious girl was everywhere; soon becoming one of Chicago’s top jingle-singing acts. In an interview with American Music, she explains the “country girl” &!@*#le she received in the jingle business. “The commercials I did were mostly country versions of commercials. In other words, [there’d be] a job doing a rock-, blues-, and country-version of a commercial and hired singers accordingly. I was hired for the country-versions, so I’ve gained my reputation that way. For having a ‘country’ voice.”
With vocal chords that successfully sold everything from gum to soap to the country crowd, the 20-something decided to cash in on another of her god-given gifts; an “all-American” look. Long blonde hair, big white smile, petite frame– Lane had that coveted “attractive yet wholesome” image that, when mixed with a catchy jingle, equaled supermarket gold. Print-work and on-camera commercials for names like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Gillette streamed in, and the successful-at-everything Lane checked “model” off her list, adding to an already impressive entertainment resume.
Selling products, as fun as it was, began feeling a bit unrewarding for Lane. Though jingle-singing fulfilled the ‘do what you love and get paid for it’ ideal, she longed to write and produce her own recordings. “I got my first record deal in Chicago, with GRT, which showed me that I was on the right track,” and here Lane cut her very first record, under the name Lynn Nilles. “It was pretty successful, it was called ‘He’s Taken.’ A lot of people remember that. I wrote it myself, as a two-step dance number.” A few early recordings proved semi-successful as well, including ‘More Nights’ and ‘Over You.’ The second single would become well known in Europe (especially in Spain where it was a soap opera’s theme song) and after being used on the soundtrack of Tender Mercies, was nominated for an Oscar. “But shortly after that,” she recalls, “I moved to L.A to work on my voice, my personality and my style.” Lane signed on with EMI shortly after moving to Los Angeles, in 1981. Here she co-wrote and recorded ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ (for the NBC-series) with Johnny Lee. It would become her most popular recording. The single rose to number one on the charts, and stayed in the top slot for over five months, winning Brody and Lee the BMI Most Performed Song of the Year award.
By 2004, Lane’s list of accomplishments and successes has become quite lengthy and, as always, diverse. Work in music has added a co-writer credit for Anne Murray’s album &!@*#le song Hottest Night of the Year, the critically acclaimed All The Unsung Heroes (written and sung by Brody), and recorded performances for 2 CBS Movies of The Week, including Just A Little More Love which received an Emmy nomination. Television work would include an acting spot on Taxi, a dramatic acting debut in ABC’s Heart of the City, and appearances on the NBC Today Show, Austin City Limits, Crook And Chase, and the Lee Greenwood USO Tour Special. As an adult, Lane began lending her voice to charitable causes, and continues to attend and perform at their many functions and benefits. She’s traveled and worked extensively with the U.S.O. in support of American troops overseas and at home, and in 2004, Lane and husband Eddie Bayers organized a concert for 101st Airborne in Ft. Campbell, KY. Lane also hosts an annual wildlife benefit in her own name, raising money for the Walden’s Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Tennessee.
As Lane told Happenings Magazine in a 2004 interview, “I am proud to represent my hometown in everything I do.”
Biography by Katie Dylewski
School/Training: Troughtline Elementary School, Fratt Junior High School, McKinley Junior High , University of Wisconsin