One of the sad things about being a legend in a local area, even for a star with a national reputation, is that often those who are nearby don’t know what you’ve done. That may be true for someone like the truly legendary Barbara Lynn, an amazing woman in her own right who has toured with many big stars in her storied professional career.
Coming from Beaumont and Southeast Texas may make it even more difficult to be recognized when the area is ripe with musical fruit; more than 65 area artists have hit the big time with No. 1 records, chart toppers and musical feats. Check out the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur if you want to be amazed.
Lynn, one of those local legends, will receive well-deserved honors Sunday, Jan. 15, as she celebrates her 70th birthday. Performances by Jack Edery and Ultrasuede and the Dean James Band with special guests Jimmy Simmons, Ashlynn Ivy, the Lisa Marshall Band, Bachelor Wise and more will honor Lynn at The Gig at 234 Crockett St. in downtown Beaumont.
What everyone is really hoping for, along with hearing all of the performers on stage, is that Lynn will break out her guitar, play it left-handed as she does, and rock the house. She is a female instrumentalist extraordinaire (and one of the first females guitarists to hit the charts). She often wrote her own material and simply loves making the music.
Defining her brand of music is not always an easy task because it straddles the line quite nicely between blues and true southern R&B. Her No. 1 hit, “You’ll Lose A Good Thing,” a self-penned ballad from 1962, was recorded in New Orleans and bears the imprint of soulful jazz that might have come from the streets around the French Quarter. This song became a national hit, reaching popular music’s Top Ten charts and becoming a No. 1 single on R&B charts.
Lynn was born Barbara Lynn Ozen in Beaumont on Jan. 16, 1942, and soon took up piano. Inspired by Elvis Presley, she effortlessly switched over to guitar and formed her own band in junior high school, Bobbie Lynn and the Idols. Her musical role models at the time included Guitar Slim and Jimmy Reed, among others. Female pop singers such as Brenda Lee, “Little Miss Dynamite,” and Connie Francis were among her influences. Winning a few talent shows and playing some teen dances, she found she wanted more. Lynn started working local clubs and juke joints, risking her school career if discovered because she was still under age. Singer Joe Barry saw her perform live and, impressed, recommended her to his friend, producer/impresario Huey P. Meaux, aka “the Crazy Cajun.”
Her first album was released in 1962 and featured 10 of her original songs among the 12 tracks. She added songs, “You’re Gonna Need Me” and “Oh, Baby, We’ve Got A Good Thing Going” to her accomplishments. The latter song was recorded by The Rolling Stones in 1965. In 1966, Lynn switched over to Meaux’s Tribe label and cut “You Left the Water Running,” which became something of an R&B standard. Otis Redding later covered this tune. In 1967, Lynn chose to sign with Atlantic and had another R&B hit with “This Is the Thanks I Get.” In 1972, she scored one more hit for Atlantic, “Until Then, I’ll Suffer,” but by this time in her life, her children needed a mom She, for the most part, retired from the music industry although she did agree to play some tour dates.
Lynn decided to return to her first love in the mid-1980s and toured Japan for the first time in 1984. She later cut a live album there titled “You Don’t Have to Go,” which eventually was issued in the U.S. by Ichiban. Even though many do not know her name, she has managed over the years to retain a cult-like following among true connoisseurs of American soul and blues in several different pockets of this vast world. She toured internationally in the ’90s and in 1994, Bullseye Blues issued her first full-fledged studio album in over two decades, “So Good.” “Until Then, I’ll Suffer” was recorded again in 1996 and Lynn caught the attention of executives at the respected blues label, Antone’s. In 2000, she cut “Hot Night Tonight,” which featured a couple of songs by her son Bachelor Wise.
Her attributes are truly legendary, and she’s hung with the big boys in a field once dominated totally by male musicians. Her 70th birthday party on Crockett Street should be memorable and worthy of a legend in her own time. And just maybe, she’ll give us a present, too, by picking up that old guitar.
Doors open at 6 p.m., and advance tickets can be purchased by calling (409) 833-7999 or (409) 454-8496. There will be $10 tickets available at the door. Sponsors for this event are Kinsel Ford and Attaboy Pest Control.