At Home with Irma Thomas

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

Her contemporaries Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Etta James are better known, but Irma Thomas is a star in southern Louisiana and in the world of soul and blues music. She’s known as “The Soul Queen of New Orleans” but exhibits none of the “diva-ish” attitude she so despises in the biggest stars. In fact, Thomas is so down to Earth that as a press contact, she gives out the home phone number where she and her husband/manager Emil live in New Orleans East. And she welcomed us into that home for an interview during our trip to The Big Easy for the 2010 Jazz and Heritage Festival in April. The anti-diva opened the door in her gown and slippers and Bob sat next to her on a sofa in the living room for their conversation. Thomas was comfortable, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking her picture - or even asking to take her picture. Before we left though I did snap this shot of the Grammy Award Irma Thomas won for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2007. The Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album 2007The CD is called After the Rain and was recorded shortly after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters receded. A Grammy is heavier than I thought it would be, and it’s amusing to imagine Thomas carrying it around in her purse to various appointments and errands to share the award with her fellow citizens of New Orleans. She says that recording session and every performance since then has been therapeutic to help her work through what happened in August and September of 2005. The storm destroyed her music club “The Lion’s Den” and badly damaged their house in the Upper Ninth Ward. It’s been fully refurbished and as we sat in her living room, it was pretty hard to imagine that it had ever been under six feet of water.

The latest release by Irma Thomas is a 50th Anniversary Celebration of her career.

Click here to read a personal message from Irma Thomas.

Click here to see more pictures of Thomas from her website.

Click here to see more pictures of our New Orleans adventure.

View BES in New Orleans (04/2010) in a larger map