For the new ‘MEMPHIS BLUE ~ Sweet, Strong & Tight’ record, Barbara wanted a real Memphis record. She asked some of her Memphis friends including dueling piano players Earl Randel, Tim Plunk & Craig Schuster, Reba Russell, Delta Joe Sanders, Nancy Apple and Lorina McMinn to contribute songs for her to record. The record also includes songs by Ann Peebles and David Porter & Isaac Hayes. Members of the Hi Rhythm Section backed Barbara in the studio. Some of the guest musicians that appeared to add some spice & grease to the tracks are Ronnie Earl (guitar), Bobby Rush (harp), Sonny Barbato (accordion) and Cody Dickinson (washboard).The record is pure Memphis and Barbara’s vocals shine throughout.
Aside of touring around the United States, Barbara has toured abroad to Australia, Canada, England, Norway, Aruba and on The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. The new record ‘Memphis Blue’ is getting a lot of attention from fans in Belgium and Denmark.
Throughout her career Barbara Blue has performed with some of the Blues genre’s best including: Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band, Jeff Healey, Dutch Tilders, Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges, Anthony Gomes, Marcia Ball, Delbert McClinton, Maceo Parker, Al Jackson, Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Tab Benoit, Fiona Boyes, Corey Harris, Sean Costello, The Nighthawks, Big Mike Griffin, Candye Kane, Zack Harmon, Trudy Lynn, Carol Fran & Gaye Adegbaloba.
Barbara has written and sung commercials and briefly worked with Nickelodeon. She also sang background vocals on Mark “Muleman” Massey’s 2014 record ‘One Step Ahead of the Blues’. Barbara couldn’t use a microphone in the studio. She had to sing to the back wall while the other musicians faced forward. Don Nix and Larry Nix produced the record for Mark at Ardent Recording. Barbara remarked “I do love session work.”
Barbara performs five nights per week at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street. Some of her fans’ most requested songs are: "Low Down Dirty Dawg" “Drunken Angel”,” Tool Box Blues" “Bobby McGee”, “Piece of My Heart”, “Lake Charles” and “Moonlight Over Memphis”. Barbara’s fans have asked for a long time if “Hands Off” was on one of her records. Barbara recorded the song on her new record ‘MEMPHIS BLUE’.
I asked Barbara if she had any unforgettable experiences that have occurred during her music career in the studio, playing on the road or with people she’s met. She shared several stories with me:
On a Legendary Blues Cruise, Barbara was in the Jam room with Koko Taylor’s band. After Koko left the room, she offered each band member $20 to let her play “Wang Dang Doodle” with them. They agreed and played the song with her. About half way through the song, Koko Taylor came back in the room and Barbara thought "YIKES!!!" she was in trouble now. They kept playing the song. After the song, Koko Taylor’s daughter came up to Barbara and said “My mama wants to see you.” Barbara said “Okay” while thinking ‘This could be bad.’ Barbara went and sat down at the table where Koko Taylor was sitting. Koko leaned back in her chair and said “Girl, I thought I was listening to the juke box.” Barbara said “Well, thank you (for the compliment) Miss Taylor.” This was a special moment for Barbara.
Another time Barbara was in Aspen, Colorado with Taj Mahal at the Aspen Blues & Jazz Festival and Ray Charles and the Raelettes were also in the lineup. They went to a Jam afterwards and Barbara sang with a piano player there. Barbara’s friend Jana came up to her and said “This guy is telling me I gotta go get my horn, I want to play with her.” It was Al Jackson (Ray Charles’ band leader). Al came back to the room where Barbara was and they performed “Lover Man” together. Half way through the song Al copped one of Barbara’s licks. Barbara said “For a singer, that’s the ultimate compliment. It was beautiful!”
When Barbara is inspired she writes songs. Ronnie Earl gave her a small leather book she writes her songs in now instead of having written pieces of paper everywhere. Barbara has several Blues musicians she likes to listen to. They are Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Vince Johnson and Earl “The Pearl” Banks. When Barbara isn’t playing music or doing music business she has eight rescue dogs and four rescue cats she takes care of. She lives in the forest, likes to chill, meditate, watch the hummingbirds and do Tai Chi. She’s a great cook and has a large garden. She likes to paint, although she hasn’t’ had much time to do so lately.
I asked Barbara what here favorite things about Memphis are? She said “Music is number one and you can’t beat the home cooked food, and Gus’s Fried Chicken!” She also likes that many of the people are church minded. She said “No matter how rough things might get, no matter how mean someone might be, you can talk Jesus to them and they’ll calm down. They know all about him, they were raised on Jesus.”
May 2015 was a big month for Barbara Blue in Memphis. On Friday May 08 she was awarded Beale Street Brass Note #141 by the Memphis Music Commission at a ceremony at Silky O’Sullivan’s. Later that night she had her official ‘Memphis Blue’ CD release party at the Hard Rock Cafe. The Hard Rock also placed a memorabilia case with one of Barbara’s dresses from her "ROYAL BLUE" CD photo shoot. On
Wednesday May 27 she helped lead B.B. King’s funeral tribute procession down Beale Street.
Barbara sees wonderful things ahead. She has friends that would like to record with her. She also has a lot of songs in her head she could record. She’d like to record an old Blues record some time and her mom keeps asking “Where’s the Christmas record??”. She has three bands scattered around the country she can call on to perform with her. She’d like to tour in Belgium, Denmark and Norway to support ‘Memphis Blue’. She also would like to perform on the main stage as a "MAIN" act at the King Biscuit Blues Festival.
Barbara is at a good point in her life. She said “It’s really weird, there’s a vibe right now in my life that is good. I think all the good I’ve done in the past is doing this and I can’t stop it. It’s like everything I’ve directed my energies toward over these years are coming to fruition in my life.”
Barbara Blue Awards and Accolades:
- 2015 Beale Street Brass Note
- 2011 Emissary of Memphis Music
- 2007 Blues Music Award nomination for Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist
- 2001 Premiere Player Award for Best Newcomer - The Phillips Award
Barbara is endorsed by Heil Microphones. She’s been using the microphones exclusively for the past four years.
For more information about Barbara Blue and her music:
- Website: http://www.barbarablue.com
- Facebook: Barbara Blue
- Twitter: #memphisqueenbb
- Instagram: barbarablueofficial
To purchase her music and merchandise, go to:
Online schedule for upcoming shows: http://barbarablue.com/schedule.html
Barbara Blue can be seen live at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 7-9pm, Saturday 5-9pm and Sunday 4-8pm.
Online YouTube music videos (select) of Barbara Blue:
Barbara Blue "Drunkin' Angel"
09-02-2012, 2012 Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, Folklore Hall, Memphis.
Barbara Blue Live At Court Square Memphis "Down Broken Heart Row"
5-14-10, Court Square, Main Street, Memphis
The interview for this story took place May 28, 2015
© 2015 Mark E. Caldwell, All Rights Reserved.