Bayou diva

Marcia Ball brings Southern boogie to Southeast

Posted: Thursday, December 05, 2002

Marcia Ball rolls blues, Cajun and rock and roll into one rollicking style. Linda Windeborn of Juneau saw Ball at the New Orleans music festival Jazzfest a few years ago, and she's been singing her praises ever since.

"She's electric," she said. "She's not just tapping her foot as she's playing piano - she's bouncing her whole leg. It amazed me how rubberlike her legs were. She's the center of the music. She is the music."

The singer and pianist brings her five-piece band to Juneau for an all-ages dance concert at 8 p.m. Friday at Centennial Hall.

Windeborn said Ball was friendly and approachable in person, interactive with the audience and dancers, and a driving bandleader on stage.

"She's not terribly big. For a small, petite woman she can really belt out some tunes. The energy she emits just keeps you agog."

Ball sings blues, jazzy ballads and soul in addition to delivering up-tempo dance numbers.

Ball was born in Orange, Texas, in 1949 and grew up in the musically rich Texas-Louisiana border country. Musicians as varied as Johnny and Edgar Winter, Janis Joplin, Gatemouth Brown, George Jones, Tracy Byrd and Tiny Moore grew up in this corner of Gulf Coast Texas surrounding the town of Port Arthur.

Her family played music and she started playing piano at age 5. She attended Louisiana State University as an English major and played in a psychedelic rock band there called Gum.

After college she headed to San Francisco. She stopped to repair her car in Austin, Texas, and fell in love with the town. She's made the Texas capital her home ever since.

She launched her solo career in 1974 and released her first album, "Circuit Queen," in 1978. Other albums include "Gatorhythms," "Hot Tamale Baby," "Let me Play with your Poodle" and her most recent, "Presumed Innocent," which this year won the W.C. Handy Blues Award for Best Blues Album of the Year.

The Handy awards are given by the international nonprofit The Blues Foundation to honor and acknowledge blues music and musicians. In 1998, Ball won the W.C. Handy Blues Award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year.

Ball has appeared on the public-television show "Austin City Limits" and played at the White House in a concert with B.B. King in 1999. She performs more than 100 concerts a year.

Juneau Jazz and Classics has been trying to bring Ball to Juneau for years. Festival administrator Pam Johansen said the group hoped to feature her at the festival last May.

"We were thrilled to get her finally," she said.

Johansen said the dance concert is a family event and open to all ages.

The hall will be set with chairs in the center and dance floors next to the stage and off to the sides.

The concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, $16 for students and seniors, and are available at Hearthside Books and at the door.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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