I first met Marcia backstage at a festival where we both were performing. It was about 1987 at Bastille Days in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I remember standing around and sweating after doing a set on the 100°F+ stage when I heard somebody start cranking on the piano. I could hear the left hand bounding over the keyboard like a stride player but there was something different in the feel. Something complex and unique. It literally stopped me in my tracks.
I walked back up the stairs to the edge of the stage and then I saw her. OMG. Then, she sang.
That was it for me. I was gone. I bought every Marcia Ball album I could find. I was already a huge fan of Professor Longhair so I knew what I was hearing in her playing. She is what I would call a “neo-originator” – someone once removed from the origin of a style. She is a protege of ‘Fess himself and she tears it up.
Her voice is right out of Louisiana ringing like a bell and growling when required. Smooth and strong but with serious upper range and a very cool vibrato. I took it in from the sidelines. I met her briefly after her set and that was it.
It took me another 20 years to perform with her. Here we’ve rolled out the big band for her and she plays one of my favorite songs – Louisiana 1927
But here’s why she’s a treasure. I’ve never once heard anyone who has met her say anything short of “She is about the sweetest person you will ever meet” and that’s the truth. In fact, she welcomed the band into her home to help reduce rehearsal costs. She is isn’t “Marcia Ball Big Shot Music Star” – she’s still our Marcia Ball. And Austin is lucky to have her.
I hope you’ll check out https://marshaball.com and grab some albums. You can’t go wrong here.