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After a solo LP for Capitol and a successful series of releases on Rounder, Marcia Ball
joined the Alligator Records family in 2001 with the release of the critically acclaimed Presumed Innocent
. The CD took home the 2002 Blues Music Award for Blues Album Of The Year. 2004's So Many Rivers
, 2005's Live! Down The Road
, 2008's Peace, Love & BBQ
and 2010's Roadside Attractions
all received Grammy Award nominations as well as critical and popular acclaim.
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 power of soul music. One day in 1962, she sat amazed while Irma Thomas delivered the most 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, and while waiting for repairs she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn't long before she was performing in local clubs with a progressive country band called Freda And The Firedogs, while beginning to sharpen her songwriting skills. It was around this time that she 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, Marcia launched her solo career, signing to Capitol Records and debuting with the country-rock album Circuit Queen
in 1978. Creating and honing her own sound, she released six critically acclaimed titles 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 her longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The CD, Sing It!
, was released in 1998 and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In 1999, Marcia and her band appeared on the Public Television special In Performance At The White House
along with B.B. King and Della Reese. She has also been featured on Austin City Limits
and HBO's Treme
. She performed in Piano Blues
, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese’s The Blues
series which aired on PBS television nationwide in 2003. Marcia also appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman
with The New Orleans Social Club, where she not only reached millions of people, but also helped to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, she had a role in the independent film Angels Sing
starring Harry Connick, Jr., Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson.
Ball has been the subject of stories in many national publications, including USA Today, Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard
, and in newspapers from coast to coast. She has been featured on the covers of The Austin Chronicle
and Blues Revue
, as well as in countless lead stories in entertainment sections of publications around the country. She has appeared on national radio programs including A Prairie Home Companion, Fresh Air, Piano Jazz, World Cafe, Whad’Ya Know?
, Public Radio International’s Studio 360
, as well as on SiriusXM satellite radio.
The New York Times
says, "Marcia Ball plays two-fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time." Living Blues
declares, "Her originals sound like timeless classics and southern soul masterpieces that no one else can imitate."