Now in her sixties, R&B guitarist and singer Barbara Lynn is as poised and gracious as somebody's stately grandmother. It defies cognitive dissonance to connect the elegant older women to her astonishing resume: a million-selling No. 1 R&B hit of her own composition, years on the road supporting the likes of Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, and having one of her songs recorded by the Rolling Stones at the height of their early, teen-idol fame. All because a teenage girl from southeast Texas saw Elvis Presley play the guitar and decided that she would like to do that, too. Barbara Lynn Ozen started out playing local talent shows around her native Beaumont with an all-female group that gained the notice of the now-infamous producer Huey P. Meaux. He recorded the 20-year-old guitar player's first single with a young Mac Rebennack playing organ, and the bluesy, soulful heartbreak ballad perfectly balanced between girlish innocence and worldly hurt tore up the charts. That first single, "You'll Lose a Good Thing," was a No. 1 hit on the R&B charts in 1962 and broke the top 10 on the pop charts, propelling her into an unlikely career.
At a time when it was tough for eye-candy girl singers in the music business, Lynn was writing her own material, playing lead guitar and leading her band. She played "You'll Lose a Good Thing" with a sad, sparkling swamp-soul vibe reminiscent of a young Irma Thomas on American Bandstand, at the Apollo Theater and around the world. Then Mick and Keef came calling. The Stones recorded her lively blues romp "Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin')" in 1964.
After marrying and having children, Lynn gradually slipped out of the performing life. But after a break of nearly 20 years, she returned to her old tricks. In the "80s and "90s, she started touring again and recorded a live album and two studio records before the millennium turned. For the past several years, she's been a headliner at New Orleans' annual Ponderosa Stomp festival. This year marks the original soul survivor's first Jazz Fest appearance.
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