Bringing the blues to Hollidaysburg: ‘The Reigning Queen of Beale Street’ to play Canal Basin Park

HOLLIDAYSBURG – It may come across as an oxymoron, but blues singer Barbara Blue likes to make people feel good.

“I have a little ministry. It’s just to make people feel better and be a little more aware, and if they go out and be nicer 10 more minutes because of something I said, well, that’s a lot of positive energy going the right way,” she said.

The singer/songwriter known as “The Reigning Queen of Beale Stree” is singing the blues most nights at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Memphis’ famous Beale Street, but will make her second appearance at Canal Basin Park on Sunday as part of the Hollidaysburg Area Arts Council’s 2014 summer concerts.

“That’s the council’s main purpose is to bring quality performance and quality programs to the area for people to enjoy,” Marie Little, arts council president, said.

The Midlife Cowboys will play July 20, and the Altoona Symphony Orchestra will play Aug. 30.

A 10-piece band, which will include some of Blue’s Memphis bandmates and Pittsburgh musicians, will take the stage 7 p.m.

The Pittsburgh native is an award-winning artist who has put out nine records and is currently working on a 10th. She was recently selected to receive a note on the Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame, and was honored at the newly-located Hard Rock Cafe Memphis with a display in its Memphis Music Museum. Blue has also received recognition at the Hard Rock Cafe Pittsburgh.

Blue caught Little’s attention at an impromptu show at the Canal Basin Park last year started by Altoona musician Felix Kos of Felix and the Hurricanes.

“The musicianship of the band is tremendous. What I like about Barbara is the professionalism, (she is) a person who really is passionate about her songwriting and her music, and I think you can hear that in her voice and if you like blues, she definitely holds the title of ‘The Reigning Queen of Beale Street’ in Memphis, Tennessee they’re going to hear some very special music from her,” Little said.

Blue, who has been friends with Kos for decades, has played on Beale Street for 17 years, she said.

As a kid, she sang at school and church, and played the guitar at a young age, Blue said. Her parents always played music at home, and she was exposed to soul music at a young age in the ’60s.

Blue sang other styles of music such as country before she started singing the blues, she said.

“I think I’ve always had the blues. I really believe I was born with the blues, but it takes awhile to figure that out,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030. Follow Amanda Gabeletto on Twitter (@AmandaGabeletto) or on Facebook (Amanda Gabeletto Altoona Mirror).