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Kat Eggleston comes home to Vashon Island

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For singer-songwriter Kat Eggleston, there is truly no place like home.

The golden-haired, clear-voiced troubadour is known internationally not only for her virtuoso skills on guitar and hammered dulcimer, but also for her heart-felt songs about her childhood spent on Vashon Island.

Now, Kat has officially returned to Vashon, to live full-time with the family that has sparked her lifelong creative spirit.

For the past 18 years, she has been based in Chicago, carving out a life in the city and earning a living as a performer. Over the years, Kat recorded four solo albums, toured to Australia, Ireland, England and Scotland and worked in Chicago’s vibrant theater scene. In between gigs, she found time to return to Vashon so frequently that some people may not have realized she was ever gone.

But Kat continued to keenly feel the absence, and one month ago, she made the cross-country trek for the last time.

“The best songs I write are about my dad,” she said recently, as she stood outside the farmhouse where she grew up and has now returned to live.

With the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound as a backdrop, she gestured toward her 84-year-old father, Al Eggleston, as he walked across the lawn toward an arbor covered with wild roses.

“I ask you — look at that guy,” Kat said, her face shining with affection, as her father looked up, and smiled back at her.

“See those trees?” Al said as he walked closer, pointing to two enormous poplars standing side by side. “When Kat was a little girl, she asked me to put a big rubber band between those two trees, a sling-shot, so that I could shoot her all the way into the pasture. She told me, ‘It’ll be alright, Dad, I’ll be wearing my cape.’”

Kat grinned and said, “Can you imagine how great it was to grow up here?”

Kat was born in Los Angeles in 1958, during a time when her parents were developing the renowned Gumby television series with pioneering animator Art Clokey. Kat’s mother, Ruth Eggleston, was the original voice of Gumby, and her father worked as the show’s first art director, building the memorable sets and mechanics for the cartoons, as well as creating the character of Gumby’s sidekick, Pokey.

In 1960, Al took a job in the production department of Boeing and moved his family into a farmhouse built in 1912 on the Island’s west side. Kat celebrated her third birthday in the house.

“Mom taught third grade on the Island,” she explained, “and she and Helen Frohning started the third-grade music program that is still done here every year. Mom started me on piano and guitar lessons here on the Island.”

Kat says both she and her older brother Matt - who also lives in the farmhouse - inherited their musical talent from their mother and “the freedom to use it” from both parents. Kat is full of affection and praise for her brother. “He’s a brilliant musician,” she said.

Ruth Eggleston died six years ago, prompting Kat to make more frequent trips to visit her father and brother. Around the same time, a health scare of her own prompted her to reassess her life and priorities.

“No matter how often we talked on the phone, it wasn’t enough,” she recalled. “I had a very clear observation that time was moving on and that I wasn’t immortal either. The people in my life are the most important thing to me.”

Standing with her arms around her beaming father outside their farmhouse, it is clear that Kat has no second thoughts at all about following her heart back to Vashon Island. She is looking forward to several upcoming performances on the Island and will be pursing other work as well to fill in the gaps in her income.

The lyrics of one of the singer’s most poignant songs, “Home,” poses the question, “would you go, if you could, back over years long past, to a house that stood by gray water on green grass … if someone gave you the power, would you go home?”

For Kat Eggleston, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Boxed sidebar:

Kat Eggleston will perform at Strawberry Festival from 1:45 to 2:15, Sunday, July 13, at the Maury Stage in Ober Park.

She will also be a featured performer at the Vashon Winery Folk Festival, to be held on the Winery grounds from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, August 23. For more information about the festival, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.vashonwinery.com” www.vashonwinery.com

Eggleston is also available to teach guitar and hammered dulcimer lessons. Contact her by e-mail: HYPERLINK “mailto:kat@kateggleston.com” kat@kateggleston.com.

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