Marva Wright, the powerhouse New Orleans blues and gospel belter who left her job as a school secretary to sing around the world was enormously popular among fellow musicians in The Big Easy. Ms. Wright was an impressive live performer who moved easily between gospel spirituals and bawdy blues romps. In her late-blooming career, she released albums on local and international record labels, and performed across Europe, in Russia and Brazil, and at blues festivals around the United States. She drew large crowds at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, and staged an annual Christmas concert at Tipitina’s.
Ms. Wright grew up in Carrollton. As a child, she listened to her mother sing and play piano at Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church on South Liberty Street. Her mother had attended McDonogh 24 Elementary School with future gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, and they remained friends.
Ms. Wright graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, then left Southern University in Baton Rouge after two years to marry her first husband. While raising her children, she confined her singing to home and church.
As her children grew up, she worked as a secretary at Eleanor McMain Secondary School. Encouraged to pursue singing as a profession, she wrestled with the notion of performing sacred gospel music in secular clubs. She consulted childhood friend and fellow gospel singer Jo “Cool” Davis, who urged her to make the leap.