Marcia Ball - Songwriter & Piano Player
Marcia Ball is a living example of how East Texas blues meets southwest Louisiana swamp rock. Ball was born March 20, 1949, in Orange, TX, but grew up across the border in Vinton, LA. That town is squarely in the heart of "the Texas triangle," an area that includes portions of both states and that has produced some of the country's greatest blues talents: Janis Joplin, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Queen Ida Guillory, Lonnie Brooks, Zachary Richard, Clifton Chenier, and Kenny Neal, to name a few. Ball's earliest awareness of blues came over the radio, where she heard people like Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, and Etta James, all of whom she now credits as influences. She began playing piano at age five, learning from her grandmother and aunt and also taking formal lessons from a teacher.
Ball entered Louisiana State University in the late '60s as an English major. In college, she played in the psychedelic rock & roll band Gum. In 1970, Ball and her first husband were headed west in their car to San Francisco, but the car needed repairs in Austin, where they had stopped off to visit one of their former bandmates. After hearing, seeing, and tasting some of the music, sights, and food in Austin, the two decided to stay there. 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. Ball has been based in Austin ever since.
Although Ball is an excellent piano player and a more than adequate vocalist, "the songwriting process is the most fulfilling part of the whole deal for me," she said.
Ball, who's established herself as an important player in the club scenes in both New Orleans and Austin, continues to work at festivals and clubs throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Because of the diversity of her influences, Ball bounces from one genre to the next without ever missing a beat. Enhancing her musicianship is a smoky voice that's equally at home on a sentimental ballad or a hard rocking blues number.
Also adding to Ball's appeal is her unmistakable physical presence. Standing six feet tall, Ball sits cross legged at the keyboard, her instrument of choice is a Yamaha grand piano, keeping time by kicking the piano leg -- much like Professor Longhair before her.
She is ranked right up there with vintage Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Leon Russell, Dr. John, and the killer himself -- Jerry Lee Lewis. She appears to be the secret love child of Miss Manners and Little Richard, sitting demurely at the keyboard, while blowing the joint apart. In 1998 she was named the W.C. Handy Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year.
Over the course of her three-decade career, Ball has earned a huge and intensely loyal following all over the world through critically acclaimed albums and continued non-stop touring.
Ball joined the Alligator Records family in 2001 and released the critically acclaimed Presumed Innocent (the ninth album of her career), which took home the W.C. Handy Blues Award for "Blues Album Of The Year." Her albums and performances have received glowing reviews in major music publications, and Marcia was featured on leading radio and television programs, including Austin City Limits and National Public Radio. Feature stories about her have run in magazines across the country, including Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard, Blues Access (cover), U.S. News & World Report and in newspapers from coast to coast. She was featured on CNN in 2002, and in February, 2003, she appeared on NBC's Today Show. She appears in Piano Blues, a film directed by Clint Eastwood.
She's got one of the biggest, most devoted cult followings of any roots music artist, and she earns it by delivering some of the best party music and the most soulful, deepest blues and ballads night after night.