A BLUES DIVA IN DALLAS: MISS MARCY FINDS HER SWAGGER ON NEW ‘DEEP ELLUM’ DISC With her Texas SugarDaddy Dave Burris, Miss Marcy brings back strong women blues.
The iconic blues divas of the ‘20s and ‘30s – women who could hold their liquor, satiate their men, and whup-up sprightly young things prancing on forbidden territory. These blues divas could sing a mean tune, too. They sang about life, love, fidelity, money and empowerment. They demanded respect, and weren’t afraid to fight for it.
Enter Miss Marcy.
Her name is Marcy Rodsky; call her Miss Marcy. She was born in Dallas and raised in El Paso. She lives in Deep Ellum smack dab in the thick of the nightclub life. She’s a bar singer. No, make that a bluesy, fire-cracking bar singer. She belts the blues with sass and vinegar, with a larger-than-life swagger that still manages to hit you at eye level.
In 2010, five years after Miss Marcy met her musical soul mate guitarist Dave Burris, Miss Marcy & her Texas SugarDaddy’s strutted to life. Now, in the summer of 2015, we have Deep Ellum, the first full-length album by Miss Marcy & her Texas SugarDaddy’s released on Sunnyvale-based CSP Records. Deep Ellum is the anticipated follow-up to the 2013 self-titled, 7-song EP (also on CSP Records) that introduced us to Miss Marcy & her Texas SugarDaddy’s. Recorded and mixed at Audio Dallas Recording Studio in Garland, with production work by Paul Osborn and Jimmy Rogers, Deep Ellum offers a dozen bourbon-soaked, grown-up blues ‘n’ soul numbers. Most of them come from Miss Marcy and Dave Burris’ pen, with the exception of covering Stuff Smith’s 1936 jazz saloon classic “If You’re a Viper.”
Miss Marcy and Burris are accompanied by sizzling musicians such as drummer Wes Starr, keyboardist Tim Alexander, bassist Bobby Chitwood, and harmonica virtuoso Brian “Hash Brown” Calway, a man who proved creatively instrumental to Miss Marcy back in the late ‘90s.
“These musicians are like in Pluto, and I’m on Earth,” says Miss Marcy about the caliber of players on the CD. “What they did to the songs was amazing. When I played the record from beginning to end I was like, “Holy shit! Who is she?’ She seems a lot more confident than I am.” Deep Ellum comes chock full of scorching gems, from the smoldering manifesto “You Make Me Do Things” to the sobering tale of love gone wrong “Whiskey and Cocaine.” But two songs deserve special attention – “SugarBrown” and “C-A-S-H (That’s What Mama Wants).” On the former, Miss Marcy is a woman on the warpath searching for an ex-friend who messed with her man.
“This is a warning not to mess with my man,” she says. “Even if I messed with your man, don’t mess with mine. SugarBrown was a friend who thought she could try my man and quickly realized that there were consequences for betraying me.” “C-A-S-H (That’s What Mama Wants)” is clearly the album’s centerpiece, a burlesque-savvy stomper that captures the essence of Miss Marcy. She’s bold, fierce and full of eye-winking venom. “That’s a woman’s favorite four letter word! We already know what a man’s favorite four letter word is, but this is a woman’s. I’m damn tired of being broke!! I’m done with working and ready to just ‘work it’!”
Miss Marcy arrived at the Dallas-Fort Worth blues scene by way of a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of North Texas. She taught high school English and has an ESL (English as a Second Language) certification that she still puts to good use as a part-time ESL professor in the Dallas Community College District. But how exactly do the blues come into this picture? Miss Marcy, who as an adolescent took piano lessons without much fanfare, found herself drawn to musically potent women. She dug Melissa Etheridge, Rickie Lee Jones, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Mary J. Blige, Loretta Lynn and Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde. These women built her musical foundation. They personified her awe-inspiring admiration of strong, no-holds-barred women with raw talent to spare.
But while at UNT, when she was 23, everything changed for Miss Marcy. During a music course she was introduced to the blues music of the legendary Chess Records label. “I had never heard this before and it made a huge impact,” she says. The music of blues queens Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton and Etta James coupled with Miss Marcy’s longstanding love of 1940’s glamour girls such as Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable awakened a once-dormant muse.
She ventured into the local blues scene and ended up at a blues jam hosted by Brian “Hash Brown” Calway at the now-defunct Schooner’s Nightclub in Dallas. It was 1997 and Miss Marcy was completely green but hungry. A few weeks later at a second blues jam she got the nerve to get up onstage and sing a tune. It was her first time ever on a stage singing for an audience. There was no turning back. “I had never heard myself through a mike and speakers before,” she remembers. “It was strange. Hash was like, ‘This is terrible!’ He then picked out a couple of songs for me to learn at home.” The rest is part of local blues history. Miss Marcy wrote her first tune, “SugarDaddy,” in 2010 for a KNON-FM blues compilation album of original music. That song remains a signature that Miss Marcy performs every time she’s onstage, which is two to three times a week. She’s a working musician proudly upholding the tradition of potent women with a roar in their voices and a wink in their eyes. Miss Marcy talks about blues music with the clarity and heft of a woman who lives it. “The sound itself is reminiscent of a heartbeat,” she says authoritatively, like the coolest teacher you’ve ever known. “The soothing, reflective lyrics are the truth. They are strong, but meant for you to laugh about them. The simplicity is a magnification of your feelings inside. You can feel it. It’s real life in song.” The blues divas of yesteryear would rejoice the arrival of a new sister.
By Mario Tarradell