By Jim Abbott
It has been almost three decades since Cyndi Lauper sashayed her way to status as a 1980s icon with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” but the singer still knows how to have a good time.
Her latest fun diversion is “To Memphis, With Love,” a concert DVD set for Oct. 25 release. The project is tied to Lauper’s most recent studio album, “Memphis Blues,” a 2010 collection of blues standards recorded with an all-star lineup including the legendary B.B. King, New Orleans great Allen Toussaint, harmonica man Charlie Musselwhite and others.
She will celebrate her musical infatuation on Friday at House of Blues, on a bill with another New Orleans gem, Dr. John, on a tour dubbed “From Memphis to Mardi Gras.” So how did this native New Yorker get so much Memphis in her blood?
Well, there’s the rich history of the music, from traditional blues to the 1960s classics by Otis Redding, Booker T & the MG’s and Al Green.
“It’s pretty awesome to go there and think about the wonderful soul music that came out of there,” Lauper says in a phone interview. “It’s the foundation of everything we’ve all sung all our lives.”
Lauper first had the idea to record a blues album eight years ago.
“By the time I did it, it was 2010,” she says. “So it wasn’t an overnight thing. I waited a long time and I think it was better that I waited probably. I was able to keep researching. That is always a good thing, the more you know.”
Of course, there are a lot of places to connect with the roots of priceless American music: New Orleans and Clarksdale, Miss., to name a couple. For various reasons, Lauper weeded those destinations out — for now.
“New Orleans isn’t as bluesy, but don’t think that I wouldn’t want to make a record there someday. But New Orleans would’ve been more jazz.”
But music wasn’t the only criteria involved in her travel plans.
“I knew I had to go south, but I didn’t want to go to Clarksdale, because everyone drags that well,” Lauper says in her squeaky New York accent.
“I wasn’t sure what it was like. I don’t parallel park well, you know. I wasn’t sure what the action was there. You have a highway, then you have these towns on the side of the road. I didn’t want to deal with driving, so I went to Memphis. It’s a little town and they’ve got a little trolley.”
One of the album’s highlights is Lauper’s collaboration with King on Louis Jordan’s “Early in the Morning.”
“Someone told me, ‘If you want to do a song, with B.B. King, he loves Louis Jordan,’” she said. “I looked him up and the first thing that came up was an album with someone dancing wildly on the cover. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s me. I love that.’”