Barbara Blue
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Barbara Blue

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The best kept secret in music


"Memphis Magazine Feb 2004"

The corner of Third and Beale is home for singer Barbara Blue. A Pittsburgh native who passed through Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street seven years ago and was offered a full-time job, Blue has turned the popular watering hole and gathering spot into her personal pulpit five nights a week, presiding over an ever-changing congregation of tourists, conventioneers, and locals. On a typical Saturday afternoon last fall, Blue took the microphone before a sleepy crowd of about 20 souls who seemed more interested in the Florida-Arkansas college football game on television than what was happening on stage. With longtime accomplice Nat Kerr backing her on piano and providing her own percussion via tambourine and stomping feet, Blue proceeded to win over the crowd with a human jukebox act she calls “blues singer gone awry.” By the end of her set, the bar was full and patrons were lined up to buy CDs and talk to the artist. Estimating that she knows approximately 3,000 songs, Blue says, “Usually, if we’ve heard it we can play it, and we’ll try most anything once.” Onstage she mixes personal faves — Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, Etta James, Lucinda Williams — with audience requests, and engages in a game she calls “musical prostitution”: $5 in the tip jar will immediately bring an end to any song, and $10 more will start it back up again. Asked if there’s anything she won’t sing, Blue says, “For $300, I’ll do about anything — Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimmy Buffett, David Allen Coe, Britney Spears. Just so they don’t yell ‘Freebird,’ ” she adds, referring to the Lynyrd Skynyrd ditty that’s so overdone it’s become a standard joke. Blue is clearly a woman who loves to sing and is also adept at working a crowd. “I know what I’m doing up there,” Blue says. “I know how to pull the energy out of [people], and I love that. I can tell pretty quick who I want to talk to and who I don’t.” While audience interaction is important to Blue’s success, she has to know when to leave people alone — and how to curb those who become overly attentive. “I like to let everybody be who they are up to a point,” she says, “but if they start to cross the line, I’ll back off them.” As someone who spent plenty of time on the road before finding her way to Memphis, Blue appreciates what she’s got at Silky’s. “The food is good, the people are nice, and Beale is safe. It doesn’t take a lot of Memphis to support Beale,” she says, estimating that 80 percent of her audience consists of out-of-towners, while Sundays are the best night for locals. “The best thing about this corner is the diversity,” says Blue. “I can sleep in the same bed every night and it’s still like being on the road — I get to perform for a different audience every night.” Plus, she adds, “people still come [to Beale Street] for music, and they take it seriously.” Under Blue’s command, Silky’s becomes a musical oasis for travelers seeking a warm, friendly, festive evening — a situation she pays tribute to on her latest record, 3rd & Beale, recorded in Los Angeles last fall with members of Taj Mahal’s Phantom Blues Band. One song in particular, a Blue original, pretty much sums up the dynamic at work at Blue’s sets: “The Road Comes to Me.”

Chris Herrington - Contemporary Media Inc.

"Blues On Stage Aug 2004"

I recently heard Memphis blues singer Barbara Blue referred to as the “Human Jukebox” because of her standing gig at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street in Memphis. On my first trip to Memphis back in 2003, Barbara was the first Memphis singer I got to see perform live, where she covered any and all types of songs that anyone could imagine. However, before labeling the talented Ms. Blue as a lounge singer, you really need to listen to her latest release Memphis 3rd & Beale on her own label, Big Blue Records.
As was the case on her last release, Sell My Jewelry, Barbara is once again backed by a great band, including members of Taj Mahal’s Phantom Blues Band, John “Juke” Logan and the Texicali Horns (Joe Sublett & Darrell Leonard). On Memphis 3rd & Beale, Blue takes her turn through thirteen fine songs including covers of songs by Charlie Rich, Janis Joplin and Lucinda Williams, along with her own compositions and those with writing credit shared with Nancy Apple. As with her effort on Sell My Jewelry, Barbara puts her heart and soul into every song on the new CD and the strong backing band, makes her sound fantastic.

Memphis 3rd & Beale opens with the classic soul tune, “24-7-365", featuring the Texicali Horns and Barbara’s soulful vocals. The fine opener is followed by the J.D. Garrison original “Rainy Night In Memphis,” a song that features a lot of John “Juke” Logan harp and Barbara singing what is an obviously personalized tune that references her regular gig at Silky O’Sullivan’s. Two more Memphis style soul tunes are up next, penned by Bobby Boyd; “I Don’t Need No Man Like That” discusses the problem of dealing with a man that is obviously taking what he can get, while giving as little in return as possible. “If I Had You” goes the opposite direction with Barbara pining away for the man of her dreams and the one that everyone else would covet as their dream man as well. After a nice blues shuffle entitled “Red Cadillac & The Blues” featuring some nice guitar by Johnny Lee Schell, Barbara opens up her soul on the Charlie Rich classic, “Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave.” On this classic tune, Barbara proves that she can burn a torch as well as any female singer out there.

As Memphis 3rd & Beale crosses the halfway point, the first of three Blue-penned or co-penned songs, “The Road Comes To Me” makes its appearance. Blue admittedly doesn’t care much for the road, preferring her “home base” on Beale Street. The song, an apt follow-up to her previous “I hate the road” song on Sell My Jewelry, “Road Blues,” seems to suggest that despite her resistance of working the road, sometimes the call of the road cannot be ignored and touring is a necessary evil. The following song “(Shuffle) All Night Long” was co-written by Blue and Nancy Apple and features a distinct ZZ Top feel with its Texas boogie beat and Johnny Lee Schell’s guitarwork. The Barbara Blue trilogy is completed with the slow, burning blues entitled “Careful Blues” a song that includes great harp by John “Juke” Logan and piano work by Mike Finnigan, with some serious burning guitar by Schell thrown in for good measure.

Memphis 3rd & Beale heads down the home stretch with three classic tunes; “Lie No Better” a Gary Nicholson/Delbert McClinton classic; Lucinda William’s country-soul masterpiece, “Lake Charles”; and peaking with a cover of the Janis Joplin tune “One Good Man”. Blue does justice to covering Joplin tunes (she did “Turtle Blues” on her previous recording), simply because she has a very Joplinesque voice and can exude the same type of emotional outrage in her voice. The CD concludes with another Nancy Apple tune, “You Can’t Stop My Love,” a honky tonk blues duet with Mike Finnigan, featuring Finnigan’s piano and a sound not unlike that of by Dr. John.

Memphis 3rd & Beale is another excellent self-produced recording by Ms. Barbara Blue and another presentation that should make it increasingly hard for the talented singer to remain “hidden” on Beale Street. In my opinion, she deserves much more recognition, its just a matter of how much “fame” she actually wants. Anyone interested in learning more about Barbara Blue can visit her website at where you can check out her biography, review her tour schedule and pick up any of her CD’s including her latest, Memphis 3rd & Beale.

Dave "Doc" Piltz



Out Of The Blue
Sell My Jewelry
MEMPHIS: 3rd & Beale
30sec clips avialavle on
Radio airplay: xm radio, independent & public stations accross the US, Italy, Poland, Holland, etc.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Barbara Blue was born and raised in Pittsburgh PA, after extensive travel, she now resides in Memphis, TN. She has performed over 3000 shows on Beale St. to audiences from accross the united states and around the world nightly. 2 out of her 3 CD recordings are with the They have and are continuing to perform with the likes of Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Etta Jame, The Sacred Heart Blues Band and countless others. As an independent artist Barbara Blue has been extremely blessed with opportunites and talent.