Classie Ballou

Musician Classie Ballou and his wife Mildred celebrate their 80th birthdays on Sunday with — of course — live music from local bands.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson

Waco guitarist and band leader Classie Ballou has provided the live music for scores, if not hundreds, of good occasions during a five-decade career, so it’s only fitting that when he turns 80 years old, family and local musicians are returning the favor.

Ballou’s birthday is Monday, but the party for him and his wife Mildred, who turned 80 on July 7, will take place Sunday at The Backyard, 511 S. Eighth St. The Ballous’ daughter CaCean, herself a musician and leader of the Dirty Crawfish Band, is organizing the party with siblings Cranston, Classie Jr., Cedric and Clinton likely to be there, if schedules permit, as well as the Ballous’ grandsons Cedryl and Cam’Ron.

A full lineup of Waco-area musicians (and some from outside Waco) has signed up to provide the music: Venus Envy, Bubba Haze, THE BALLOU CATS, Steve Dansby, Dustin Terrell, Tim and Jessica Mauzey, the Ghost Dance Band, Brad Wilson, Limousine Limited, Gary Sumpter, David Paterson, Don Franks, Lisa Tambling, Ricky Terry and Tiffany Jackson.

Cen-Tex Roof Systems and Beltone Hearing Aid Center also are supporting the celebration.

A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Classie Ballou started his music career in southwest Louisiana’s rock ’n’ roll and zydeco scene in the 1950s, expanding into rhythm-and-blues, rock and country over the years. He played with such musicians as B.B. King, zydeco pioneer Boozoo Chavis, Big Joe Turner and Ike and Tina Turner, leading the house bands at Dallas’ Ascot Club and Little Rock’s Flamingo Club in the 1960s.

During his years in Waco, Ballou and his band often backed the touring stars who played Walker’s Auditorium.

As his children grew older, they joined his band and for at least a generation of Waco residents, Classie Ballou and the Family Band was a familiar sight at festivals, dances, club dates and other occasions. Over the last two decades, Ballou has been on the lineup of the New Orleans Jazz Festival several times.

Ballou still performs, though his schedule is slowing a bit, and he plans to return to Europe this fall with a trip to Lucerne, Switzerland, planned for November.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor