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‘Mama B’ pounds the keys for 76 years at Marion’s Ephesus Baptist Churchcomment (0)

April 15, 2010

By Anna Swindle

Chances are if you’re from an area near Marion, then you’ve heard of Mama B and her incredible gift for music. In fact, you’ve probably heard her play the piano, organ or guitar at some point, if not on several occasions.

Despite the fact that she’s never had a formal music lesson, Mama B — whose real name is Annie B. Huey — has been playing the piano for Ephesus Baptist Church for 76 years. She’s never been paid for playing, but what she has received is joy from contributing to the Cahaba Baptist Association church for so many years.

Music has been a part of her life as far back as she can remember.

“I was just about 4 or 5 years old playing on a wooden doorstep and singing and it sounded so good and I went in to our pump organ and that didn’t sound good so I went back to the steps,” Mama B, who turned 89 in March, recalled with a laugh. “I would sit down to the pump organ and just pick out one note at a time until I found the tune and just went from there is all I can say.”

Born and raised in Sprott, Mama B and her husband, Douglas Haig Huey, made sure music was a consistent presence in their household.

“We just all learned to appreciate music,” said Ann Nichols, the Hueys’ daughter. “During the holidays, we’d get together and, once we had children, gather everyone together and sing Christmas carols.”

Often grandchildren and then great-grandchildren would slide onto the piano bench next to Mama B (who got her nickname from her oldest granddaughter back in the 1960s) and “help” her play the high notes, said her daughter-in-law Donna Huey.

In addition to sharing her talents with her church family on Sundays, Mama B played piano for Gospel Four, a musical group that was formed about two decades ago and included her daughter and son Larry, who now serves as the music minister at Ephesus Baptist. The quartet performed at church homecomings, nursing homes and Saturday night singings across the state.

“We didn’t make a lot of money, but we got something that money can’t buy,” Mama B said. “We did it because we all loved the Lord and were Christians. And we were told that one fellow decided he was going to be a preacher because of our singing.”

One song that was part of the group’s repertoire was a Mama B original — a tune called “What a Beautiful Morning.” She said her inspiration for the song came from a strikingly peaceful morning one cold day about 15 years ago. She was marveling at the beauty of the day when she received word that her brother had died, and the combination of events led her to write the song.

Even though she moves a little more slowly and needs the help of a walker these days, Mama B feels as at home on a piano bench as ever.

After all, music has been “my life,” she said.

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