A Chat with the Soul Queen

June 8, 2010

Irma Thomas during a Mahalia Jackson tribute at Jazz Fest 2008

If we were in New Orleans this Friday, there’s no question where we would be from 5:30 to 7 p.m.: at the Cabildo on Jackson Square for Cocktails & Conversation with Irma Thomas.

Every second Friday of month, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, an organization committed to the celebration of the unsung heroes of American roots music and rock ‘n’ roll, sponsors a free event like this. Music fans gather for drinks and the spinning of vintage 45s, then settle in for a live interview of a musical icon.

And who better than the beloved Thomas, whose contributions to New Orleans blues, R&B and soul make her not just a musical force but a moral one? From her brief Stomp bio:

The “Soul Queen of New Orleans” began her musical career as a teenager, when Tommy Ridgely discovered her waiting tables at the club where his band was in residency. Thomas auditioned for Joe Banashak’s then-fledgling Minit label in 1960, but was turned down and signed with the Ron label instead, releasing “You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don’t Mess With My Man)” which made it onto the Billboard R&B charts in spring of that year. Thomas left Ron to sign to Minit, for whom she recorded some of her (and New Orleans R&B in general) most beloved signature songs, including “It’s Raining” and “Wish Someone Would Care” with Allen Toussaint as producer.

Thomas’ rich, soulful, often melancholy voice is one of New Orleans music’s finest treasures. Her records garnered her a dedicated cult following among collectors and connoisseurs over the years, but it was not until 2006’s “After The Rain” album on Rounder Records that she earned a much-belated Grammy award.

There’s a longer bio here.

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