Born: March 20, 1949 Primary Instrument: Piano
Marcia Ball - Blues Pianist, vocalist
For more than 30 years, Ball has been delivering her signature brand of Texas blues, Louisiana R&B and Gulf Coast swamp pop to audiences all over the world. She has earned a huge and intensely loyal following through critically acclaimed albums and continued non-stop touring. Live, she’s simply unbeatable.
Previously, the only way for Marcia Ball’s fans to hear one of her stellar live performances was to see her in person. But now that all changes, as Ball rewards her fans with her first-ever full-length live album, the Grammy-nominated “Live! Down The Road,” a blistering set recorded at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in 2004. Ball gives each song the workout of a lifetime, reinventing and reinvigorating every track with the immediacy and fire only a live show can deliver.
After recording nine previous albums, Ball joined the Alligator Records family in 2001 and released the critically acclaimed “Presumed Innocent,” which took home the 2002 Blues Music Award for “Blues Album of the Year.” Her follow-up,”So Many Rivers,” was nominated for a Grammy Award, and won the 2004 Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Blues Album of the Year” as well as the coveted “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year” award. In 2005 and 2006, the Blues Music Awards honored Ball as the “Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year.”
Born in Orange, Texas, in 1949 to a family whose female members all played piano, Ball grew up in the small town of Vinton, Louisiana, right across the border from Texas. She began taking piano lessons at age five, playing old Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmother’s collection. From her aunt, Marcia heard more modern and popular music. But it wasn’t until she was 13 that Marcia discovered the blues, as she sat amazed while Irma Thomas delivered the most soulful and spirited performance the young teenager had ever seen. According to Ball, “She just blew me away; she caught me totally unaware. Once I started my own band, the first stuff I was doing was Irma’s.” In 1966, she attended Louisiana State University, where she played some of her very first gigs with a blues-based rock band called Gum.
In 1970 Ball set out for San Francisco. Her car broke down in Austin, Texas, and while waiting for repairs, she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn’t long before Ball was performing in the city’s clubs with a progressive country band called Freda and the Firedogs, while beginning to hone her songwriting skills. It was around this time that Ball delved deeply into the music of the great New Orleans piano players, especially Professor Longhair. “Once I found out about Professor Longhair,” recalls Ball, “I knew I had found my direction.”
When the band broke up in 1974, Ball launched her solo career, signing to Capitol Records and debuting with the country album “Circuit Queen” in 1978. She released six critically acclaimed albums on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1990, Ball�collaborating with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton�recorded the hugely successful “Dreams Come True” on the Antone’s label. At the end of 1997, Marcia finished work on a similar “three divas of the blues” project for Rounder, this time in the distinguished company of Tracy Nelson and Ball’s longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The album, “Sing It!,” was released in January, 1998 and was nominated for both a Grammy and a Blues Music Award as “Best Contemporary Blues Album.” Ball also received the 1998 Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year” and for “Best Blues Instrumentalist�Keyboards.”
In 1999, Marcia and her band appeared in the nationally televised Public Television special In Performance At The White House along with B.B. King and Della Reese. Her albums and performances received glowing reviews in major music publications, and Marcia was featured on leading television and radio programs, including Austin City Limits and National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Piano Jazz.
Since the release of her Alligator debut “Presumed Innocent,” Ball has received more popular and critical acclaim than ever before. The album was in the Top 20 chart positions at Album Network, Gavin and FMQB and won the Blues Music Award for “Best Blues Album of the Year.” “So Many Rivers,” her 2003 follow-up, continued the trend.
Feature stories ran in magazines across the country, including USA Today, Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard, U.S. News & World Report and in newpapers from coast to coast. Ball performed on National Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, World Cafe and Whad’Ya Know?, Public Radio International’s Studio 360, the nationally syndicated Mitch Albom Show, and the PBS-televised version of Mountain Stage. Ball was featured on CNN in 2002, and in February, 2003, she joined her friends The Hackberry Ramblers on NBC television’s Today Show. She was featured on the cover of The Austin Chronicle as well as Blues Revue magazine and even appeared in Piano Blues, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese’s The Blues series which aired on PBS television nationwide in Fall, 2003.Since then, appearances on Austin City Limits and the Late Show With David Letterman with The New Orleans Social Club not only reached millions of people, but helped to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. She performs on A Prairie Home Companion again in 2008.
Now, with her 2008 release of Peace, Love & BBQ and a long list of high profile tour dates, Ball will bring her blend of Texas roadhouse boogie and Louisiana swamp blues to fans everywhere. Radio and critics continue to sing her praises. No Depression says, “Ball takes her Louisiana R&B and soul from a stomp to the swamp and back. [She brings] dancehall power and majesty and no small amount of sly humor. Her hard-rocking, relentlessly rolling piano and heart-on-sleeve vocals don’t take much of a breather. Relentless tunefulness and finely-honed storytelling make for a truly enjoyable ride.” With her new CD and her endless touring, Marcia Ball invites all her fans to ride with her as she spreads peace and loveand enjoys plenty of BBQall across the world.