“Legendary” (Billboard) soul man Ironing Board Sam—long lost for a time—has completed a comeback to the music world. Big Legal Mess Records released his label debut Super Spirit on October 2nd. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2015 and Lincoln Center Out-Of-Door in 2014. The artist behind a series of in-demand 45s from that era, Sam was also a regular on 1960s soul TV program Night Train. eMusic has called him “a true maverick.”
Ironing Board Sam has been playing music for more than half a century, whipping up a large catalog of soul songs and blues tunes along the way. He’s earned a reputation as a singer, songwriter and acclaimed keyboardist. Thanks to a handful of inventions, though — many of which have become staples of his live show — Ironing Board Sam has also become one of the most colorful, charismatic showmen in modern music.
For Super Spirit, Ironing Board Sam traveled to Producer Bruce Watson’s Dial Back Studio in Water Valley, Mississippi to record with guitarist and co-producer Jimbo Mathus, drummer Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), bassist Stu Cole (Squirrel Nut Zippers). Using Sam’s ‘60s and ‘70s singles as inspiration, Watson chose songs from the repertoires of Ann Peebles, The Gories, Jimbo Mathus , Jack Oblivian, Roy Hawkins and more.
A flamboyant dresser, an eccentric inventor, a philosopher, and a musical showman, Sam also became the spokesman for the Faultless Starch brand in a national ad campaign.
Living Blues Magazine named him Comeback Artist of the Year in 2012 and Musician of the Year (Keyboard) the following year. He toured Australia in 2013 and France in 21014. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) said of his Australian tour, “Ironing Board Sam, 73 years young, sang like his pants were on fire and attacked his keyboard as if it had sinned.”
Ironing Board Sam was interviewed by PBS Newshour as part of its profile of the Music Maker Relief Foundation.
Sam earned his nickname by mounting his keyboard on an ironing board with a strap that allowed him to walk the stage while playing, much as he did at Lincoln Center in 2014, where fellow Music Maker Relief Foundation artists Dom Flemons, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, and Albert White joined him on stage.