Marsha McWilson: Rocking the Boat

Buffalo and the western New York area has a number of interesting concert venues and stages from a floating stage on a lake to a stage some 20 feet in the air. But one of the most unique is on the deck of a ship.

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The Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Marine Park has three ships as a part of their exhibits – the missile cruiser the USS Little Rock, the destroyer the USS Sullivans, and the submarine the USS Croaker.

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On August 15 western New York songbird Marsha McWilson boarded the USS Little Rock for a performance on the fan tail of the 610 foot ship as a part of their summer concerts series.

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The intimate outdoor setting lent itself more to an informal gathering than a big concert performance.

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Donned in a white top and pants with a sailor hat, Marsha was ready for a backyard party. Encouraging the crowd to join in on the fun, she opened the show with “God Bless America”.

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A beautiful evening with a bright sun, Marsh chose to perform a few Gospel tunes including “Oh Happy Day”, “As Long as I Hot King Jesus”, and Jesus is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me”.  While she grew up in the church singing, Marsha is known for singing Jazz and the Blues. She performed “Summertime”, “I’m All the Way Over”, and “Thank You Tim Joyner” before taking a break for a costume change…and to find a lady named Etta.

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During the break the sky opened up with a brief shower that drove everyone under the canopy and an even more informal an intimate setting.

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After opening with “Let it Roll”, the party really got started with audience members dancing on stage, singing along with the songs, and having a lot of fun as Marsh McWilson sang “Church Bells”, “I’d Rather Be Blind”, “Tell Mama, an “At Last”.

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Sam Cooke may have sung about having a party, but a Marsha McWilson is a real party that leaves fans clamouring for more.

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When the USS Little Rock was commissioned few if any women served aboard her, but it is a foregone conclusion that the ship has never seen a party quite like the one led by Marsha McWilson on August 15.

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Al photos by Sherrill Fulghum


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