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Give Us the Blues: Janis Joplin Tribute Band Ball and Chain Performs this Sunday

There's a Janis Joplin tribute band playing in Phoenix, and as the late '60s icon herself would say, "Get it while you can."

Phoenix resident Susan Ballard has been impersonating blues singer Janis Joplin since 1997, when she played her first tribute show at a club on 7th Avenue called Desert Rose. The show coming up on Sunday, February 22 is a homecoming of sorts -- it'll be at zGirl club, formerly known as Misty's, formerly known as Desert Rose.

"It's going to be madness," Ballard says. "It's always standing room-only."

Ballard's band is called Ball and Chain, named after one of Joplin's best-known tunes (it was originally performed by Big Mama Thornton, but Joplin's rendition at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival helped propel her to stardom). Ballard says other songs Ball and Chain might perform during the upcoming 90 minute show include "One Night Stand," "Tell Mama," and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)." The band does the live versions of the latter two songs, and Ballard even includes Joplin's onstage raps in the middle of them.

Though Ballard dresses in Joplin's hippie chic-type attire and strikes an amazing resemblance to the singer (check out the photo below), emulating the vocals of Joplin is no easy task, Ballard says.

Susan Ballard as Janis Joplin (photo by Carolee Lavarini)

"She is such a raspy singer. On the technical side, that's damaging to the vocals," Ballard says. "Over the years, I've learned to guard against that and try to do more falsetto, as opposed to so much of the raspy stuff."

But when it comes to researching Joplin, Ballard says that's mostly in the living. "I've been a Janis fan since I was a kid," she says. "I was exposed to her through music videos and documentaries, so I didn't necessarily study her, but I learned a lot just through so many years of exposure to her and her music."

Ball and Chain will perform a full show on Sunday, complete with curtains, costumes, and lights. Ballard says, "I want the Janis fans to say, 'This girl did her homework.'"

Ball and Chain: A Tribute to Janis Joplin is scheduled to take place at zGirl club on Sunday, February 22, at 5 p.m. (doors open at 3). Admission costs $6.50, and advance tickets are available at zGirl club. Visit or for more information.


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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea