Marcia Ball Papers
Scope and Contents
The papers of singer, songwriter, and performer, Marcia Ball, span 1970 to 2018 and document her long career in music. It is arranged into the following series: 1) Publicity, 2) Photographs, 3) Posters, 4) Oversized Material, 5) Personal Papers, and 6) Published Material.Series descriptions follow:
Series I: Publicity, 1970-2018 Boxes 1-4
Publicity is divided into Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, and Flyers and Promotional Materials. Newspaper and magazine clippings about Marcia Ball were collected and distributed through promotional packets, press kits, album release announcements, and more, and they span nearly fifty years. Flyers and promotional materials include a variety of items relating to shows, benefits, and festivals, as well as business cards, bumper stickers, and other ephemera.
Series II: Photographs, 1978-2006 Boxes 4, 6
Photographs include over 100 images of Marcia Ball, including promotional photographs as well as candid performance shots. Also include are some early passport or photobooth photos of Ball, and a contact sheets of her in a 1960s bowling outfit, possibly for a film.
Series III: Posters, 1984-2018 Box 5
This series includes over 60 posters for concerts, benefits, and other appearances. Most feature Marcia Ball, but some include other artists, particularly a number of posters for the Austin venue, La Zona Rosa, owned by Ball and her husband, Jim Fowler.
Series IV: Oversized Materials Box 6
Oversized Materials includes LPs with Marcia Ball Albums 1978-1989, a Marcia Ball portrait; signed photos including one of Jim Hightower, magazine articles, and “Flag Songs of Texas” sheet music.
Series V: Personal Papers, 1977-2005 Box 7-8
Personal Papers includes correspondence, including notes from political leaders Lloyd Doggett, Jim Hightower, and Jim Doyle. Also includes is material documenting the business side of Ball’s performing career including tour itineraries, contracts, and invoices. There is a small amount of fan club material, and a number of envelopes of clippings that Dee Hunskier sent to Ball’s parents, Hope and Millard Mouton. Finally, in this series is some material relating to Hurricane Katrina benefits that Ball supported or organized.
Series VI: Published Materials, 1970-2008 Boxes 9-12
Published material includes numerous magazines and newspapers with articles about Marcia Ball’s career, concerts, lifestyle. Also featured are stories about her and her husband, Jim Fowler, and their Austin restaurant / music venue, La Zona Rosa.
- 1970 - 2018
- Ball, Marcia (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Materials from the Wittliff Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user assumes responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish, and abiding by U.S. copyright laws. https://www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/research/visit/policies/publication.html
Marcia Ball is a widely-renowned blues, Americana and boogie-woogie piano player and singer-songwriter based in Austin, Texas. She was born in Orange, Texas (March 20, 1949), raised in Vinton, Louisiana, and first started playing in public while attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, but didn’t begin her music career in earnest until moving to Austin in 1970. Stylistically, her music has always been equally rooted in Texas and Louisiana, as reflected by her induction into both the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, as well as her being named 2018’s Official State Musician of Texas.
Raised in a musical family, Ball began playing piano at age 5, and seven years later discovered her lifelong passion for soul and rhythm & blues after attending an Irma Thomas concert at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans. She studied English in college but dropped out to play in a local blues rock band called Gum. At 21, she left Louisiana with plans to move out to San Francisco, but her car broke down in Austin and she ended up staying, falling in right away with the city’s burgeoning music scene. Together with guitarist John X Reed, bassist Bobby Earl Smith, steel and rhythm guitar player David Cook, and drummer Steve McDaniels, she formed the progressive country band Freda and the Firedogs. The group caught the attention of legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, who invited them to record some demos at a studio in Tyler, Texas, in August 1972. Atlantic liked the results enough to want to release the tracks as an album, but the offer was rescinded after the band contested the financial details of the label’s contract. Decades later, after the original tapes were lost in a fire in Atlantic’s vaults, Wexler provided the band (long since broken up) with a copy from his own collection so that that they could release it independently in 2002. A subsequent reissue in 2021 also featured three bonus tracks from another previously unreleased session, with Texas producer Huey Meaux at Houston’s Sugar Hill Studios in 1974.
After Freda and the Firedogs disbanded in 1974, Ball embarked on a successful solo career that netted her a deal of her own with Capitol Records in 1977. Her solo debut, Circuit Queen, released the following year, would be her only record for the major label, but she soon after found a new home on the independent Rounder Records. Beginning with 1984’s Soulful Dress, she would record half a dozen albums for the label before moving to another independent, Alligator Records, for 2001’s Presumed Innocent. As of 2022, she has released nine albums on Alligator, the most recent being 2018’s Shine Bright. In 1990, while still signed to Rounder as a solo artist, Ball recorded a trio album with fellow Texas blues singers Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehli; titled Dreams Come True, it was released on the Austin-based blues label, Antone’s Records. Ball’s last album for Rounder, 1998’s Sing It!, was another trio project, this time with her teenage hero, Irma Thomas, and Tracy Nelson.
Ball has received considerable critical acclaim throughout her entire career, and also been honored with several notable awards and nominations. These include five Grammy nominations, for Sing It!, 2003’s So Many Rivers, 2005’s Live! Down the Road, 2008’s Peace, Love & BBQ, and 2010’s Roadside Attractions, as well as 11 wins from the Blues Music Awards and 10 from the Living Blues Awards. In 2018, the same year that she was designated Official State Musician of Texas, Ball was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. In addition to Austin City Limits, she has also appeared on PBS’s In Performance at the White House, HBO’s Treme, and CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman, and been featured in Martin Scorsese’s PBS series The Blues and the independent film Angels Sing (with Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Harry Connick Jr.). In 2020, during the COVID lockdown, Ball co-founded HOME — Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that helps older musicians in the Austin area pay their rent and utilities. She serves as the charity’s vice-president.
Bio provided by Richard Skanse, 2022
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Metadata Rights Declarations
- The descriptive data created for this finding aid is licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons license and is free for use without restriction.
The papers of singer, songwriter, and performer, Marcia Ball, span 1970 to 2018 and document her long career in music. It is arranged into the following series: 1) Publicity, 2) Photographs, 3) Posters, 4) Oversized Material, 5) Personal Papers, and 6) Published Material
Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use: https://www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/research/makearesearchappointment.html.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Marcia Ball, 2019.
- Guide to the Marcia Ball Papers
- Lauren Sollohub, Stephanie Forsythe, Katie Salzmann, and Richard Skanse
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
- 2022: Revised for ArchivesSpace by Katie Salzmann