Exhibit, tour, one-woman show has Russellville roots
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

A one-woman play and a touring exhibit are planned in memory of a former Russellvillian who is already being honored repeatedly in her hometown. The legend of late Blues songstress Mary Ann Fisher is on the verge of taking wings.
On Monday, June 6, at the West Kentucky African American Heritage Museum in Russellville, a press conference was held to open the Mary Ann Fisher Summer Concert Series and to showcase the acquisition of artifacts from friends of Mary Ann Fisher. A blues singer who recorded with such legends as Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye and lived in Russellville for several years, the late Ms. Fisher had her memory honored when the West Kentucky African American Heritage Museum and Russellville Blues created a series of summer blues concerts bearing her name in 2008.
Dr. Nancy Dawson, who is a college educator, drama producer, and avid historian, used her contacts to secure some of Ms. Fisher’s clothing, jewelry, records and other items for an exhibit at the Russellville-based museum. Yoruba Kikiloma-Mason, a young woman who performs in Dawson’s theatre productions, served as the connection between Dawson and Marjorie Marshall of Louisville, who was a close friend and great admirer of Ms. Fisher.
Both Marshall and Kikiloma-Mason were at the Russellville news conference as guests of Dr. Dawson, who is now making her home in Russellville not far from the museum. Both of them sang in tribute to Ms. Fisher.
Marshall will be the star of the one-woman show she and Dr. Dawson are putting together for 2012 about the life of Mary Ann Fisher. They were close for several years for Ms. Fisher’s death in 2004. In fact, Marshall was one of two ‘Fish-ettes’ who backed up Fisher, just as the Blues great had been a “Rayette’ in support of Ray Charles. They sang together with Ricky Skaggs while Ms. Fisher was being inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Since her death, Mary Ann Fisher has been honored by Actors Theatre of Louisville.
“She was the consummate friend. She never met a stranger,” Marshall said Monday as she held the ATL award. “Wherever she went, no matter who was on stage, people wanted Mary Ann to sing.”
Marshall cited music researchers and Fisher enthusiasts Butch Wilson and Keith Fleming
for their roles in promoting Fisher’s memory and in providing materials for the exhibit. She said Ms. Fisher was not happy with the way she was portrayed in the Jamie Fox movie Ray, which came out the year of her death. She wanted her true story told, Marshall said, adding,. “I heard her tell it many times, and it never changed. She was telling the truth.”
Marshall and Dawson had with them some of Mary Ann Fisher’s singles which were produced in the 1960s. Titles include “Wild As You Can Be,” “Only Yesterday,” ‘Give,’ “Can’t Take the Heartbreak,’ “I Keep Comin’ Back for More,”, “It’s a Man’s World,” “What Kind of Man Are You?”. “Talkin’ ‘Bout You,” “Forever More,” and “I Can’t Take it.”
The exhibit will officially open during the August 8th African American Emancipation Celebration, one of Russellville’s greatest tourism events.
Michael Morrow, the knowledgeable historian of African American facts in Logan County and Southcentral Kentucky, talked about Ms. Fisher’s years in Russellville, about her being adopted by Citty Merritt and her husband Big John Merritt, about her attending Knob City School, and about Mary Ann and her sister Irene living in a house near the museum.
Also attending the news conference were Russellville Blues leaders Michael Gough, Gran Clark, Mary Lucy Franklin and Charlie Ray.
This year’s festival will begin this Saturday, June 11 with a performance by South Carolina blues singer Wanda Johnson, along with a band featuring harmonica legend William Howse of Nashville. All concerts in the Mary Ann Fisher Summer Concert Series are both free and fun.

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