BATAVIA — Coming to Batavia Downs Thursday for the first time to perform is Niagara Falls native Martha McWilson.
“I am bringing a full Vegas show,” she said.
McWilson said she’ll be doing impersonations of artists such as Etta James, Cher, Patsy Cline, and Gladys Knight. She said she will be doing a tribute and dressing up like the singers and performing like them.
“If you have never been to one of my concerts, you’ll never miss another one,” McWilson said.
She said she loves the response of lifting people’s souls when she sings; changing the atmosphere with her music.
McWilson has been singing since she was 6 years old and a member of the St. John’s AME Church choir. There were more than 100 children in the choir, and she was one of the lead vocalists.
Since then she’s traveled nationally and internationally, singing.
“I was actually singing gospel all that time,” she said. “Then for the last 15 years I went down to the Blues Fest.”
That’s when Toby Rotella wanted her to sing at a gospel brunch. She invited Rotella on stage and serenaded him and his girlfriend. When McWilson began to sing, it was an Etta James song.
“The crowd went crazy and my niche went from gospel into blues,” she said.
McWilson said God has turned her blues into blue skies. As a result, she describes her music as “ inspirational blues. “
“A message instead of being so down because people need something to make them motivated and lift them up,” McWilson continued. “So instead of talking about the blues, I can tell them the blues of the story that I’ve been through and God has taken me out of that story and turned my life around.”
McWilson said she couldn’t have any children, but now she has two miracle sons. She used to be 400 pounds but has lost a significant amount of weight.
Recently, she won an acting contest which lad to an appearance in Tyler Perry’s TV show, “If Loving You Is Wrong.”
McWilson is the first Black woman artist to be inducted into the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame. She’s also the first Black woman artist who walked on a fashion runway, singing.
“I have so many things that (God) has shown me that people said I couldn’t do,” McWilson said. “I have my own record company that I’m doing when other people didn’t want to play me or didn’t want to sign me.”
She has released an original song called the “Rona Mae Blues” which is a tribute to her sister, her family and the people in Niagara Falls who have died due to COVID-19. The biggest song she’s known for all over the country for is “Balance.”
McWilson wants to thank Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming, and his wife, Caroline, for the opportunity to sing at Batavia Downs.
She also wants to do a special thanks to Stephanie Coward and her family and fans.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. at Park Place Event Center. Tickets, which cost $10, are available online at bataviaconcerts.com