World Premiere Video: Soul music pioneers to perform at Ponderosa Stomp


The 2015 Ponderosa Stomp — the twelfth edition of the New Orleans festival celebrating the pioneers of rock, soul, and blues — will again this year be featuring some legendary soul music greats, with a cavalcade of the underground heroes of American music over two marathon nights of concerts Oct. 2-3. Soul music has played a starring role at every single Ponderosa Stomp. Howard Tate, Maxine Brown, Brenton Wood, Lavelle White, Wendy Rene, and Otis Clay are just a few of the giants who’ve delivered unforgettable performances over the years for the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau. The 2015 Stomp will feature Irma Thomas, Mable John, Brenda Holloway, Betty Harris, Barbara Lynn, and Willie Hightower, among others.

Go behind the curtain of the 2015 Ponderosa Stomp to learn more about these Stomp artists who dwell at the intersection of soul, R&B, and funk, as we present the World Premiere of a video that highlights the careers of many of this year’s performers. Check it out below and then read more about some of the great women who will be performing at this year’s show.

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This year’s Ponderosa Stomp is proud to present five legendary female R&B icons, all of whom profoundly impacted the soundtrack of the civil rights era. Booked by Stomp founder and visionary Ira “Dr. Ike” Padnos and his fellow musical experts of the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, the five “Sisters of Soul” are set to perform Oct. 2-3. They are:

 Irma Thomas, known far and wide as “The Soul Queen of New Orleans”; 

• Brenda Holloway, the fledgling Motown label’s first West Coast artist and the United Kingdom’s reigning “Queen of Northern Soul”;

• Barbara Lynn, the triple-threat singer, songwriter, and guitarist from the Texas Gulf Coast;

• Mable John, the soul and gospel firebrand who blazed trails with Motown, Stax, and the Ray Charles organization;

• Betty Harris, “The Lost Soul Queen” who recorded with legendary producers Bert Berns in New York and Allen Toussaint in New Orleans.

Brenda Holloway, Mable John, and Betty Harris are performing Friday, Oct. 2, while Irma Thomas and Barbara Lynn round out Saturday, Oct. 3. 

Irma Thomas expressed excitement about performing in her native city and reconnecting with the Stomp. “I go back quite a way with The Ponderosa Stomp,” she said. “I was on one of the symposiums a few years back, but I’ve never actually appeared as a performer, so this is going to be very special for me.” Her comments underscore the raison d’être of the Stomp, “I certainly appreciate the fact that The Ponderosa Stomp keeps featuring those of us who were active in the early days and are, obviously, still alive. It’s very important, and even if I weren’t a performer, I’d still be very appreciative of what they’ve done over the years.”

New to the Stomp, Brenda Holloway remarked, “I’m certainly looking forward to my first Ponderosa Stomp and my first trip to New Orleans. I’m so happy to be part of it especially since Mable John and Barbara Lynn are my idols. And Irma Thomas? You don’t have to be Brenda Holloway to love Irma Thomas. Everybody loves her!”

Barbara Lynn, still living in her hometown of Beaumont, Texas, emphasized her close relationship with Irma Thomas and the others. “She’s not just an old friend; we’re more like sisters. We’ve shared the same stage and the same hotel rooms. I met Brenda when I lived in California years ago and she had me laughing as soon as I met her. And you can say that I’m a real Mable John fan, while you’re at it.” 

The grande dame of this year’s Stomp, Mable John, at 85, is making her much-anticipated debut at the festival. “I was supposed to play it the year Katrina hit and I promised ‘Dr. Ike’ I would come back whenever he wanted me to. We took a rain check, and I’m happy to be part of it after all this time.” The sister of the famed Little Willie John, Mable was born in Bastrop, La., so her performance marks a return to her roots. With a doctorate in divinity, the Rev. Dr. John now serves as pastor of the Joy In Jesus Evangelistic Outreach Ministry in Westchester, Calif. She is a fan of the Stomp’s other “Sisters of Soul,” noting, “I worked with Irma Thomas at the Porretta Soul Music Festival in Italy and with Barbara, too. Brenda and I were both on Motown at the same time and I’m just crazy about her.” 

Though equally as talented and deserving, Betty Harris never enjoyed quite the same limelight as some of her peers, but her following has grown over the years, both at home and abroad. “The Ponderosa Stomp audience is very knowledgeable and appreciative,” she said. “I met some wonderful fans from Australia when I played the Stomp years ago and they’re coming back this year.” Harris hailed Irma Thomas, who contributed backing vocals to some of Harris’ New Orleans sessions, as “a great, original entertainer.” She also has shared bills with Barbara Lynn, whom she singled out as “one of the first female guitar-playing singers who could really hold an audience.” 

All five singers will be showcasing their respective catalogs in depth. Irma Thomas, who recorded “Time Is On My Side” before the Rolling Stones, commented, “I’m often asked about performing ‘Time Is On My Side.’ Sometimes, when I did it in the past, I was asked why I was covering the Rolling Stones, but I think The Ponderosa Stomp audience is one that is fully aware that it was the other way around.” Irma can also be counted on to perform “It’s Raining,” which was featured in the film Down By Law, “Wish Someone Would Care,” “You Don’t Miss A Good Thing (Until It’s Gone),” “Good To Me,” “Take A Look,” “Hittin’ On Nothing,” “Two Winters Long,” “Breakaway,” “Ruler Of My Heart,” (later covered by both Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones as “Pain In My Heart”), and the eternal “(You Can Have My Husband But Please) Don’t Mess With My Man.”

Barbara Lynn also had a close repertoire encounter with the Rolling Stones. The Brits recorded “Oh, Baby We Got A Good Thing Going,” on their album Rolling Stones, Now! with its composer’s blessing. “I was elated when Mick Jagger called me back then and told me,” she recalled. “I was really excited they were doing my song.” Of course, her signature tune is “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” which was recorded in New Orleans at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M studio. The song is based on a poem she wrote to a long-ago boy friend, warning, “If you should lose me, you’ll lose a good thing.” Playing her renowned left-handed guitar, Lynn is joined on the session by Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John. Her song “(Until Then) I’ll Suffer” also was a massive R&B hit. Lynn also notably covered Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” in 1963 and enjoyed significant chart success with her version. 

The breadth of Mable John’s secular music career is unequaled. When she recorded for Motown, her backing singers were the Supremes. Her catalog includes the Isaac Hayes-David Porter composition “Your Good Thing Is About To Come To An End,” which was a hit for Stax; the autobiographical “Able Mable”; and “Bad Water,” which she recorded as one of Ray Charles’ Raelettes. She promises to perform “No Matter How She Done It,” as heard on the soundtrack of the feature film Honeydripper, and also will reprise her Twenty Feet From Stardom performance of the gospel standard “I Will Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving In My Heart.” 

Brenda Holloway’s catalog, of course, includes her breakthrough hit “Every Little Bit Hurts,” which earned her slots on both Motown’s Motortown Revue and Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars. She hit again with “Just Look What You’ve Done” and went on to write and record “You Made Me So Very Happy.” Her version of the latter broke into the Top 40 and was later covered successfully by Blood, Sweat & Tears. Brenda Holloway is a recipient of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award. 

Though a native of Orlando, FL, Betty Harris is associated with New Orleans because she recorded in the Crescent City with producer Allen Toussaint and worked with Lee Dorsey. However, she first hit the big time with her version of Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me” (also recorded by the Rolling Stones) and then “His Kiss,” both produced by New York studio legend Bert Berns. Her New Orleans recordings include “Nearer To You,” “Mean Man” “There’s A Break In The Road” and her duet with Lee Dorsey, “Love Lots of Lovin’.” In addition, she’s heard with Memphis soul great James Carr on “I’m A Fool For You.” Like Brenda Holloway, Betty Harris is a revered figure in the UK’s Northern Soul circle. 

The talent lineup performing at The Ponderosa Stomp is, arguably, the most ecumenical aggregation of culturally significant roots-music performers ever assembled. Its two nights of concerts are like having an infinite supply of quarters to play the world’s most thoroughly curated rock ’n’ roll jukebox, stocked with “all killer – no filler” music that delivers a nonstop, high-energy rock ’n’ roll experience. The collective booking of Irma Thomas, Barbara Lynn, Brenda Holloway, Mable John and Betty Harris — R&B aristocrats all — only confirms just how special this one-of-a-kind festival really is. 

The 2015 Ponderosa Stomp takes place Oct. 1-3, 2015, with daytime events throughout and concerts on Friday and Saturday nights at the Rock ‘N’ Bowl™ in Uptown New Orleans.



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