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Irma Thomas

“The Soul Queen of New Orleans”

Irma Thomas first hit the charts in the 1950s as a teenager, today, she is hailed as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans." She continues to record well-produced albums of new material, and fills clubs and concert halls around the world. This is due both to her vaulting, churchy voice, and to her stage presence. Thomas radiates southern warmth, drawing audiences into her world and making them glad they came. She is completely at home onstage, and her manner has a casual ease and humor that is instantly engaging. Her sense of pacing and rhythmic inventive is the essence of soul. She can always find a surprising way to phrase against the pulse of the rhythm section, and the sheer emotional impact of her technique stamps her as a true product of the New Orleans music world.

Irma Thomas was born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana in 1941, but Irma Thomas's childhood was short-lived. She had her first child at age 14, and was a mother of four and twice divorced by the time she was 19. At age 16, while working as a cocktail waitress, she sat in one night with veteran New Orleans bandleader Tommy Ridgley and his band, the Untouchables. Ridgley was so impressed with the teenager's vocal talents that he didn't waste time getting her into the studio to record her first single, called "You Can Have My Husband But Please Don't Mess With My Man," which was released on Ron Records. The song eventually climbed to the Top 30 on the R&B chart.

At 23, Thomas was sent to Los Angeles to record for Imperial Records, which had acquired her contract. The resulting album, “Wish Someone Would Care,” was a hybrid of her roots in blues and soul and the West Coast pop sound.

On “Wish Someone Would Care,” Thomas recorded a version of "Time Is On My Side," which became her best- known song. The song was then quickly covered by the Rolling Stones, and gave the British band its first Top Ten hit. Thomas was so annoyed that the Stones's version overshadowed hers that, for years, she rarely performed the song. Singer Otis Redding also scored a hit in 1964 with Thomas's "Ruler of My Heart," which he re-wrote and called "Pain in My Heart."

Allen Toussaint recruited Thomas for Minit Records, where she clicked immediately with a saucy rendition of Ernie K-Doe’s “I Done Got Over It.” Toussaint wrote and produced material tailored to Irma’s talents, including the enduring tearjerker “It’s Raining,” which became a popular cover tune. Minit’s successes drew the attention of the Los Angeles- based Imperial Records, which picked up Thomas’ contract when it acquired the label. She wrote and recorded the dramatic “Wish Someone Would Care,” which became her first national hit. The flip side, “Breakaway,” was a New Orleans favorite that saturated local radio airplay in 1964.

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