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Irma Thomas

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Information about Irma Thomas

Profile image of Irma Thomas

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Yellow
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Everything Hurts But Thank God I Can Still Feel It.

Birthplace

Born:
2/18/1941
Birth Location:
Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Yellow
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Everything Hurts But Thank God I Can Still Feel It.

Birthplace

Born:
2/18/1941
Birth Location:
Ponchatoula
See how Irma Thomas is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Blues vocalist Irma Thomas was born Irma Lee on February 18, 1941, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. She was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and attended New Orleans’ McDonald 41 public school. Thomas displayed her early vocal talents as a teen. She sang with a Baptist church choir and a gospel quartet at Home Mission Baptist Church. Her very first recording was a school song, which was recorded at Cosmo’s studio with fellow classmates. At the age of eleven, Thomas won The Ritz Theater’s talent night and two years later, she auditioned for Specialty Records.

Her big break came in 1959 when she captured the attention of band leader Tommy Ridgley while she was a waitress at New Orleans’ Pimlico Club. Thomas offered to sing with Ridgley and his band against the wishes of her boss, who fired her for singing instead of waiting on tables. Ridgley arranged a recording contract for her with a local label, Ron Records. Her debut single, Dorothy LaBostrie’s “You Can Have My Husband, But Please Don’t Mess With My Man” hit #22 on the Billboard R&B charts in May 1960. Thomas felt that Ron Records did not pay her the royalties she deserved, so she left them to join the Minit record label. Most of her early 1960s Minit recordings were written and produced by Allen Toussaint and were strong regional sellers. In 1963, Minit was bought by Imperial Records. Thomas’ first single with Imperial, “Wish Someone Would Care,” was the biggest hit of her career and reached #17 on Billboard’s pop charts in the spring of 1964. Thomas released nine singles and two albums during her three-year period with the Imperial label. During the 1960s, Thomas was a popular performer on the Southern college circuit. In 1970, Thomas moved to California where she worked at a department store and as an automobile parts salesperson. During this time, she continued working club dates on weekends and also recorded for several labels, including Atlantic Records in 1971. In the mid-1970s, she moved back to New Orleans where she remained popular as a live performer.

Her comeback as a recording artist started in 1986 when she produced an album, The New Rules, with Scott Billington of Rounder Records. Thomas received her first Grammy nomination in 1991. She received her second Grammy nomination in 1998 along with Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson. She has continued to maintain an active recording and touring schedule since. Thomas married her manager, Emile Jackson, in 1977. Together, they owned and operated a night club in New Orleans called the Lion’s Den until it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Thomas has a total of seven children.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Irma Thomas' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Irma Thomas lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Irma Thomas describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Irma Thomas talks about her mother's childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Irma Thomas describes her parents' relationship, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Irma Thomas describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Irma Thomas recalls race relations in Louisiana during her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Irma Thomas talks about her father's military service
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Irma Thomas describes her parents' relationship, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Irma Thomas describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Irma Thomas remembers New Orleans music from her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Irma Thomas recalls leaving Greensburg, Louisiana
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Irma Thomas describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Irma Thomas describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Irma Thomas recalls Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Irma Thomas remembers discovering her musical talent
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Irma Thomas describes her education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Irma Thomas remembers her favorite subjects in school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Irma Thomas recalls her teachers and mentors
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Irma Thomas describes the churches she attended
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Irma Thomas recalls winning talent show competitions in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Irma Thomas remembers the birth of her first child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Irma Thomas recalls working in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Irma Thomas recalls color discrimination at the Autocrat Social and Pleasure Club
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Irma Thomas describes joining Tommy Ridgley's band
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Irma Thomas remembers recording her first single
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Irma Thomas recalls her changing fan base
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Irma Thomas talks about double entendre in music
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Irma Thomas talks about singing gospel music
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Irma Thomas remembers Imperial Records' buyout of Minit Records
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Irma Thomas describes her music
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Irma Thomas remembers the British invasion and European fans
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Irma Thomas recalls touring in the South
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Irma Thomas remembers playing in theaters in the United States
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Irma Thomas recalls working with James Brown
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Irma Thomas describes working in California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Irma Thomas recalls returning to New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Irma Thomas remembers her return to the music industry
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Irma Thomas recalls winning a Grammy Award in 2007
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Irma Thomas reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Irma Thomas talks about Hurricane Katrina