LC musician readies for Janis tribute
Susan Pierce of Little Cypress has that infectious Janis Joplin laugh.
“It’s probably something in the water here,” she says.
In some ways she has mirrored the late singer, being born in Jefferson County and attracted to music early on. And in others she has been anything but Janis – outliving Joplin, being visually-impaired most of her life and surviving cancer.
Pierce and UltraSuede will perform this year’s Joplin tribute at the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame Show. They will be joined onstage at the Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur Jan. 23 by Marcia Ball (2010 Hall of Fame inductee), Jivin’ Gene, the Ken Marvel Band and Still Cruisin’ featuring Cheryl Guidry and Kenneth Babino.
UltraSuede features Robert Smith on drums, Jason McCollum on bass, Jack Edery on lead guitar/vocals and Brett Bourg on trumpet.
Pierce also plays keyboards with the gospel group Salt of the Earth and with the classic rock cover band Heart and Soul.
“I don’t stay bored,” she says.
Pierce says she won’t go into a lot of theatrics for the Janis tribute.
“I feel very honored they asked me to do this,” she says. “I’m just going to be dressed as myself. Janis believed you should be your own person. And hopefully the audience will enjoy our show and Janis will be smiling down from rock and roll heaven.”
Pierce was born with retinal damage and had partial sight until she was 9. Then glaucoma set in.
“I remember colors,” she says. “I saw Janis on the Ed Sullivan show and I thought, ‘Wow, that woman can scream.’ I loved the sounds of a keyboard then, and that’s what I wanted to concentrate on. The vocals came much later.”
Pierce attended Forest Park High School before it became West Brook. She graduated from Lamar University with a degree in sociology, then played with the Hard Luck Band from 1989-94 and the West Wind Band until 1998.
With UltraSuede, one of her original songs “Blind Woman with a Gun” was featured on a compilation CD released by Big City Blues magazine. The group’s only CD to date is “Fried Chicken and Whiskey.”
She was living in New Orleans in 2005 and evacuated shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit. She came back to Texas with her husband and stayed in Livingston. Not long after, her husband passed away and she was diagnosed with stage one uterine cancer.
“I was coaxed back to Southeast Texas by friends who told me, ‘There’s no use for you to be sitting in the woods and grieving’ and I’ve followed my doctor’s advice and I’ve been cancer-free since July of ‘06. I urge men and women to go to the doctor regularly and if you don’t feel right, tell them about it.”
She lives in Little Cypress with her chihuahua Chalupa.
Advance tickets for the Hall of Fame show are $22 through Jan. 22 at The Penny Record in Bridge City, 333 W. Roundbunch Road, or The County Record in Orange, 320 Henrietta St. Admission at the door is $24 and free to children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.