Grammy nominee Marcia Ball brings an evening of good-time rhythm and blues to Bayou Theater
Grammy-nominated Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist and vocalist Marcia Ball said she’d grown up steeped in the sounds of rhythm and blues in a home filled with music on the radio. “When I was growing up in Vinton, Louisiana, those parts were full of soul music and rhythm and blues,” she said. “The big radio station was KFDM in Beaumont, and the Big Bopper was the DJ. That’s how I grew up.”
She’s sharing her unique style of playful, rollicking, singalong blues on University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Bayou Theater stage Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
“When I was growing up, there were bands on both sides of the Sabine River,” she said. “I listened to the Boogie Kings, Blues Kings, and I went to all the clubs on the Louisiana side of the river, where things were looser than in Texas. There was a lot of music to be heard, and my grandmother started me playing piano when I started school.”
She said that she’d listened to all the local artists in New Orleans, but at age 13, she went to see a certain show where a lot of performers played. She only remembered one of them.
“It was Irma Thomas,” she said. “I don’t remember anyone but her. That set me on a path that I’m still on today, in terms of my style.”
Irma Thomas, a contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, was known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans.”
She said Irma Thomas became her music hero, and her friend. “I have had five Grammy nominations, always in the Contemporary Blues category. The first time was for a record called ‘Sing It!’ that I made with Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson in 1998,” she said. “It was very exciting. I’ve been to the Grammys twice. When you’re nominated, you get a blue Tiffany box with a bronze medallion on a ribbon. I still have all that, and Irma is still my friend to this day.”
During her five decades long-career, Ball said she’d joined a rock band and screamed Janis Joplin for a while, then moved to Austin and returned to her roots. “I went through the 70s playing country, and in the 80s I decided to go back to my roots, which are in New Orleans rhythm and blues,” she said.
Ball and her five-piece band, including a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist, and a saxophonist alongside her piano and vocals, have one hope for their audience when they perform. “We just want to lift people up and make them have fun,” she said. “We play serious songs with serious content, but it’s mostly about having a good time, making people happy and having a celebration.”
For more information about upcoming events, or to reserve or purchase tickets, go to www.uhcl.edu/bayou-theater/.