Published 2:56 pm Monday, July 19, 2021

New Orleans – The Emmy Award-winning production team from WLAE-TV and LAE Productions that produced Fats Domino: Walking Back to New Orleans and a Tribute to Toussaint announce the premiere of a riveting one-hour music documentary highlighting the storied life of legendary New Orleans Soul Queen and Grammy-award winner Irma Thomas. The documentary will chronicle and celebrate Irma’s 50-plus year music career.

Entitled “Irma Thomas: The Soul Queen of New Orleans – A Concert Documentary Film,” this informative and entertaining documentary will debut this fall on WLAE-TV just in time for the 51st Annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where Irma has performed every year since 1974.

“Irma Thomas: The Soul Queen of New Orleans – A Concert Documentary Film” will feature a candid interview with one of New Orleans’ most celebrated musical icons as well as never-before-seen footage of Irma in concert in her early days through her 80th birthday celebration earlier this year.

Irma’s close friends and her local and national musical contemporaries tell the story of Irma’s humble beginnings in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, her days living with her grandparents in Greensburg, Louisiana, how she sang in the Baptist church choir as a young girl and how she quickly rose to national stardom with her first of many R&B Billboard chart singles “Don’t Mess with my Man” in 1959.

“’The Soul Queen’ is a nice title. I appreciate the thought and energy that went into that honor, but I don’t get hung up on the title. You know, I’m just Irma,” explains the 2007 GRAMMY Best Contemporary Blues Album award-winning artist who talks openly this exclusive interview about her close faith in God.

“As Irma prepares for yet another Jazz Fest appearance this fall, our concert documentary on one of New Orleans’ true entertainment legends will focus not only on her music, but her life story which is filled with hardship and triumph” said Jim Dotson, vice-president of WLAE-TV & LAE Productions – the station producing the Irma Thomas documentary.

At the start of her music career, Irma worked as a waitress and occasionally sang with R&B bandleader Tommy Ridgley. With his help, she landed her first record deal with Ron Records and released her first single, “Don’t Mess With My Man,” in 1959. The song reached as high as No. 22 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart.

Throughout the 1960s, Thomas found work playing locally and on the Gulf Coast at clubs, proms and other high school dances. Thomas would go on to record for Imperial Records and Chess Records and ultimately moved to California in the late 1960s. In the early 1980s, she returned to New Orleans and opened a music club.

In 1991 she signed a recording contract with Rounder Records and received her first GRAMMY nomination for Live! Simply The Best. She continued to record numerous gospel albums and received yet another GRAMMY nomination in 1999 for the album Sing.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina forced her to relocate to Gonzales, Louisiana, and she returned as soon as her home in New Orleans East was restored. Teaming up with Scott Billington and Rounder again, she recorded the album After The Rain, which was awarded the GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2007.

Irma has performed with renowned musicians including James Taylor, Paul Simon and Marcia Ball and has performed around the world. Her 1964 rendition of “Time Is On My Side” inspired a version by the Rolling Stones, and she continues to play annually at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

The production team includes: Ron Yager, Executive Producer/Director; Jim Dotson, Executive Producer; Steve Schulkens, Producer; Ted Ochoa, Associate Producer/Editor; and Stephen Hunter, Director of Photography.

“Irma Thomas: The Soul Queen of New Orleans – A Concert Documentary Film” will air this fall on WLAE-TV in New Orleans and on Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) across the state.