Classie Ballou

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Classie Ballou, 84, of Waco, passed away Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

Funeral Service: 11AM Wednesday, August 3 at Lake Shore Funeral Home Chapel. Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery.

Visitation: 6 to 8PM Tuesday, August 2 at Lake Shore Funeral Home.

Classie Joseph Ballou, Sr. was born in Elton, Louisiana to Clyde and Beatrice Ballou on August 21st 1937. Classie later moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana were his music career started in 1947.  Classie met the love of his life, Mary Mildred and they were married October 28, 1955 and to this union had four boys and one girl. Now Classie and Mary Mildred are united again in Heaven. Classie was a legendary musician who played with artists such as B.B. King, Guitar Gabriel, Ike and Tina Turner, and has opened up for such artists as Redd Foxx, Phyllis Diller and much more. Classie always had a smile on his face and made his fans happy.

This Great Man was called home on July 27, 2022 where he passed away at home with his daughter, Cacean Ballou by his side who took care of both parents who suffered from Alzheimer’s and Dementia holding one hand and his grandson, Cam’Ron Ballou holding the other.

Local musicians and family friends have started a GoFundMe campaign for medical and final expenses.  Donate by Clicking Here.

News article: Veteran Waco musician Classie Ballou dies at 84

By CARL HOOVER July 28, 2022, Carl Hoover has covered Waco arts and entertainment, and more, for the Tribune-Herald since 1984.

Classie Ballou 1937-2022

Classie Ballou is a cornerstone of the Waco Music Scene. As part of the house band for Walker’s Auditorium, Classie backed such blues greats as BB King, Freddie King, Little Richard, and even toured with Ike and Tina Turner. Also featured here is Classie’s Son, Daughter, and two Grandchildren who have performed with Classie since they could crawl. Also featured here are several other amazing Waco musicians most notably, Pat Kelly on lead guitar (to Classie’s delight, taking on Classie’s original guitar part from Classie’s Whip).

Texas Music Cafe® features live performances from singer-songwriters all over Texas and beyond. Over 20 years of locals alongside the legendary icons of Texas music reside in our archive. Texas Music Cafe celebrates the music of all cultures residing in Texas.

Veteran Waco musician Classie Ballou, who entertained generations of Waco fans with his guitar playing and singing, irrepressible cheer, generosity and exclamations of “Hey, baby!,” died late Wednesday at his Waco home. He was 84.

His daughter, CaCean Ballou, who had cared for him in recent years, said he had suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 3 at Lake Shore Funeral Home, 5201 Steinbeck Bend Drive, with visitation planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2 at the home. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can contribute to a GoFundMe fund to cover medical and burial costs.

A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Ballou started his music career in Southwest Louisiana’s rock ‘n’ roll and zydeco scene in the 1950s.

He and his band backed zydeco pioneer Boozoo Chavis on what is believed to be the first zydeco recording, 1954’s “Paper In My Shoe.” Ballou preferred rhythm-and-blues, however, and pursued that as well as rock and country.

He led the house bands as Dallas’ Ascot Club and Little Rock’s Flamingo Club in the late 1950s and early 1960s, playing with such musicians as B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Big Joe Turner. An offer to lead the house band at Walker’s Auditorium persuaded him to move to Waco with his wife Mildred in the 1960s to raise their family.

Ballou and his band often backed the touring stars who played Walker’s Auditorium and the 31 Club, plus clubs in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. As his children grew older, they joined his band. For more than four decades, Classie Ballou and the Family Band was a regular sight at festivals, club dates, dances, weddings and parties.

Classie and Mildred were fixtures in their communities for decades, Classie as a musician, Mildred as a classroom teacher in Marlin and Waco schools. Both were Catholics and active in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. They were married 64 years before her death in June 2020 and many recalled she was often at his shows. They raised four boys and a daughter, Clinton, Classie Jr., Cranston, Cedric and CaCean. Cranston, Cedric and CaCean played in Classie Ballou and the Family Band over the years. Ballou’s grandson Cedryl went into zydeco and had his own band, the Zydeco Trendsetters, while great-grandson Cam’Ron proved a drumming prodigy, sitting behind a drum set before starting school.

During his years in Waco, Ballou was known as a musician who kept busy, playing whatever genre — blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll — was needed for a gig. Brian Brown, leader of the Sloppy Joe Band and a partner in the music venue The Backyard, remembered Ballou from frequent gigs at places like Chelsea Street Pub, the Water Works and Blues Connection, then later community concerts at Indian Spring Park and the city’s Brazos Nights concert series.

“He was just a great guy, always smiling,” Brown said. “You were in a better mood just being around him. He always gave it his all and appreciated the fact that he was getting a chance to play.”

That omnipresence at Waco clubs and venues proved inspirational to Waco musician Johnny Joe Ramos. Ramos grew up in a musical family but preferred blues and rock to the Spanish-language music his dad was performing. His father told him to pay attention to Waco bluesman George Spratt and Ballou as examples of working musicians in those fields.

“I remember seeing how much Classie was playing and thinking, ‘It can be done,’” Ramos said.

Sherman Ayres first met Ballou when he hired him for a 1999 company Christmas party for his office at M&M Mars, now Mars Wrigley Confectionery. Ayres’ coworkers knew he played drums and persuaded Ballou to let him sit in for a few songs, which he did with goodwill. Years after that, Ballou called Ayres up to ask if he could play drums for him. Ayres agreed and found out later that he would be taking over from Ballou’s 5-year-old great-grandson after it got too late on a school night.

Ayres, who started his own trio Mustard Seed after retiring from M&M Mars, played with Ballou’s Family Band off and on for about seven or eight years, he said, and found himself impressed with Ballou’s talent.

“I’m not sure people knew what an extraordinary musician he was,” Ayres said. “In other circumstances, he could have been one of the biggest blues guitarists. With all due respect to B.B. King, Classie’s version of ‘The Thrill is Gone’ was the best version I ever heard.”

Thousands of Waco residents knew Ballou from his frequent public performances, whether at benefits, fundraisers, business openings or Brazos Nights concerts.

Parks and Recreation Director Jonathan Cook booked Ballou and his band for many city concerts and festivals. The two shared Louisiana roots and an appreciation for zydeco and “swamp music,” and Ballou would drop by Cook’s office to chat about “The Young and the Restless” soap opera, a favorite.

“I remember his hands. They were so big. He would swallow up your hand when shaking hands and then that smile would follow,” Cook said.

When the city booked a blues artist such as Pinetop Perkins or James Cotton, Ballou would drop by backstage and chat up the performers, Cook said. Ballou’s musical versatility and widespread popularity made him the choice as an opening artist, even for the likes of rocker Eddie Money.

Ballou’s stature in Waco led the city to hold a Classie Ballou Day in his honor in 2019, and he was also honored at the citywide Fourth on the Brazos in 2019.

Lisa Huggins, daughter of the late Waco band leader and musician Sherman Evans, a contemporary of Ballou, remembered the impact and influence the two musicians had in bringing different people together in a community that was not always unified.

“The main thing I remember was it was a great time to be alive,” Huggins said. “My father and Classie were doing things in the community that no one else could do in bringing people together through music. It was phenomenal to see.”

Evans and his family moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1970, but returned to Waco in the 1980s, rejoining the music community with his Sherman Evans Anband. Both headed bands known for their musicianship, frequently played benefits for various Waco causes and individuals and often regaled their fans with “Hey, baby!” The five Evans and five Ballou siblings often crossed paths when growing up, and Huggins was at Ballou’s bedside when he died Wednesday night.

“What I remember about Classie was always his smile,” she said. “He had the biggest, beautiful smile and my father was the same way. They were both great men — larger than life.”

While many in Waco knew Ballou primarily for his years of local performances, he had fans in his home state Louisiana and abroad. Ballou and his band made regular appearances at the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and he and his wife connected with French jazz fans who knew him from his 1950s recordings during a 2003 visit to France.

CaCean will lead a tribute concert in her father’s honor on his birthday, Aug. 21, at The Backyard. Tentatively scheduled to play are Johnny Joe Ramos, Ethan Smith and The Dirt Road Rebellion, Gordon Collier, Jr. and the Starlights, the Huser Brother Band, Eric and Lisa Huggins and John Dempsy. CaCean and her Dirty Crawfish Band featuring Cam’Ron Ballou and T. Broussard will headline the tribute.

Place of Service: Lake Shore Funeral Home Chapel , 5201 Steinbeck Bend; Waco, TX 76708

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Condolence Messages

  1. Deborah Edwards

    prayers for all. you will be missed by so many I am so glad I met you years ago my friend

  2. Manuel and Robin Campos

    Condolence to the Ballou Family. Dear Classie, (“Classadio”) all though we haven’t see each other for many years, there has always been a place in my heart for you and Mrs. Ballou and your wonderful family and there will always be. Now you are reunited with Mrs. Ballou in great Joy and I know there is a place for you in the Heavenly Orchestra especially for you.
    You made me a better person. All my Love and Thanks, Rest in Peace. Your friend Manuel Campos

  3. Margaret Green Hixson

    May you Rest In Peace my Friend. Met you several times and have your cd. Amazing legend . You will be dearly missed my Friend. R.I.P.

  4. To the Ballou family I was sorry to hear of Classie’s passing . I was a big fan of his and the family Band I followed him in Waco for may years I will miss him greatly. It is with regret that with the start of school for the China Spring ISD in three weeks and training sessions and preparations for that I will be unable to attend the visitation or the service. MY mom and I send are deepest sympathy to your family .

  5. Bluebonnet Health (Hospice) Team

    Dear Cacean Ballou,

    You are all in our thougths and prayers and have our sincere heartfelt condolences. We are so very sorry for your loss. You dad has left an amazing legacy and will be remembered by so many. God Bless You and God Bless your dad.

    Bluebonnet Health (Hospice) Services Team

  6. Earline Nichols

    Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted Matthew 5:4

  7. Ethelyn Washington and Ella Jones

    Aunt Mae and family send our love, prayers and deepest condolences. We are heartbroken over Uncle Classie’s passing. We miss and think of Aunt Mildred all the time. Please know we would be there with you if possible. Aunt Mae is not able to travel. Much love to you all.

  8. Classie Ballou since 1994 the whole family for a long time. He play at the Allen Samuels Chevrolet Christmas parties several years in a row, I worked at Allen Samuels Classie used to call me “Mr. Allen Samuels”, he played at Don Frey’s parties on the river, at Tokyo Store… many places…he will be greatly missed by all that knew him
    R.I.P. Classie.

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