Alum Annie Sampson, Musical Strongwoman, Plays Berkeley

Friday, April 21, 2017
BERKELEYSIDE -- The youngest of 12 siblings, Annie Sampson has spent much of her life singing amid throngs of people. She loves it that way, but the powerhouse vocalist is more than capable of transporting an audience as the leader of her own band. She’ll be doing both in the coming weeks, performing with her rock and soul combo Saturday at the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, and playing Freight & Salvage on June 24 with the Blues Broads, a sensational project featuring sisters-in-soul Tracy Nelson, Dorothy Morrison, and Angela Strehli. “My father and mother and sisters had beautiful voices, and we were a singing family,” says Sampson, who graduated from Berkeley High in the late 1960s. “Coming from a big family, I knew how to get a long with people. It makes it easy for me to be with other women, singing with them. It’s easy for me to be with a crowd.” Through her teenage years she did most of her singing in church, but during her senior year at San Francisco State she decided to drop out and focus on performing. She was in a band with vocalist Mike Mathis, a younger brother of Johnny Mathis, when a friend told her about auditions for Hair. She did nearly a dozen auditions for the production before getting cast in the musical (she played the hallucinatory Abraham Lincoln, among other parts), and felt committed to the show’s anti-war message.