Known to most of the world as Lyle Lovett’s duet and back-up vocalist, Chicago-born songstress Francine Reed has been singing professionally since she was a child in her family’s gospel group.
Reed will perform May 9 at 8 p.m. at the Mars Theatre. Tickets for the show are $25.
“I always say I was born singing,” she said. “When the doctor slapped me on the (rear), I went (singing) ‘Look at me!”
Obligations resulting from a broken marriage prevented Reed from pursuing her dream full-time until her children were grown up and self-sufficient. During those years, however, Reed performed in local jazz clubs and at various functions, eventually rising to prominence in her adopted hometown of Phoenix, Ariz.
As a support act, Reed appeared on the bill with luminaries such as Miles Davis, Smokey Robinson, Etta James, and The Crusaders. She became known for her powerful voice and commanding stage presence, and delivered an eclectic blend of jazz, blues, and R&B.
She was often the opening act for such headliners as Davis, James, Robinson and the Crusaders.
In 1985, friends introduced Reed to Lyle Lovett, who was searching for a female singer for his new band. Lovett was still a struggling, virtually-unknown performer when they began their association, but as his star rose, Reed became an integral part of his show.
Reed began touring with Lovett and his Large Band as a background vocalist, and also often performed duets with the country musician. She was featured with Lovett on several albums, and appeared with him on television shows such as “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Regis and Kathy Lee.”
In the mid 1990s, Reed decided to pursue a solo career and moved to Atlanta, where she recorded her debut solo album, “I Want You to Love Me,” which featured a duet with Lyle Lovett. Her follow-up “Can’t Make It On My Own” featured a duet with Delbert McClinton. The success of these early works resulted in nominations for the prestigious W.C. Handy Award (Blues Song of the Year and Soul/Blues - Female Artist of the Year - 1997).
Reed continued to release several solo albums and has collaborated with other great performers. She performed on Willie Nelson’s acclaimed album “Milk Cow Blues” (2000), lending her soulful voice to the title track as well as to the song “Funny How Time Slips Away.” She has also contributed vocals to the recordings of Delbert McClinton and Roy Orbison.
Reed was inducted recently into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. She continues to expand her fan base at venues around the country.
For several months out of the year, she performs in Seattle or San Francisco, appearing as the Chanteuse for Teatro ZinZanni. She describes the avant-garde production as “Cirque du Soleil meets dinner-in-the-round, on acid.”