Mary Pat Hughes, 38, jazz and R&B band's singer and saxophonist

June 11, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Mary Pat Hughes, a Baltimore jazz, rock and rhythm and blues singer whose 2 Funkin' Heavy band had a wide following, died Tuesday of leukemia at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She was 38 and lived in Hamilton.

Ms. Hughes, who was diagnosed with leukemia in October and had undergone a bone marrow transplant, continued playing until earlier this spring.

Described by the Washington Blade as a "hard rockin' brunette in tight jeans who plays three kinds of saxophones and sings like a bottle of Jack Daniels," Ms. Hughes energized audiences with a voice that was reminiscent of Janis Joplin or Tina Turner.

"She was not a laid-back entertainer. She was full of energy and had a fierce spirit and vivaciousness that carried her all over the stage," said Ann Grillo, a Baltimore photographer and friend.

"She was a fireball of a performer who always had the crowd with her," said Janiel C. Bosies, who attended Towson State University with Ms. Hughes.

To loosen things up a bit and get the crowd moving, it wasn't uncommon for Ms. Hughes to lower her sax and start wailing away on an upscale version of "Tutti Frutti." Heather McKay, who has played guitar with 2 Funkin' Heavy since 1993, described her voice as being "very soulful."

Ms. Hughes founded the all-female band in 1992 and had earlier been an original member of the Bad Broads of BeBop and the Bad Broads of the Blues.

From 1990 to 1991, she played with the Cutters, a locally based eight-piece touring band.

Ms. Hughes also played bassoon with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Gettysburg Symphony Orchestra and the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"But I'm odd in that there isn't much music that I don't like. And I mostly enjoy people who get out there and sweat," she told The Sun in 1990.

She also played soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, the clarinet and flute.

Her bands appeared with Aretha Franklin, the Coasters, the Drifters, Ben E. King, the Temptations, the Morgan State (University) Choir, Martha Reeves, Danny and the Juniors, the Vogues, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Lesley Gore, the Left Bank Jazz Society, the Platters and show bands in Atlantic City.

Not only did she play weddings, bar mitzvahs and parties but such mainline venues as the Pier 6 concert series, Fells Point Fun Festival, Harborplace Concert Series and Artscape. She and her bands also played at such clubs as Fat Tuesdays and the 8 x 10.

They also entertained passengers aboard Caribbean cruise ships and in Las Vegas casinos.

In 1996, the band performed at the National Democratic Women's Leadership Forum in Washington, before President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore.

"I attended her performances in places from the smallest dives to the grandest symphony halls," said her father, Joseph M. Hughes of Fairfax, Va.

"She was one of the best sax players that you'd ever hear. She was so special of a talent," said Susie Mudd, editor and publisher of Music Monthly, a Baltimore publication.

"There was no way getting her off the stage. She was so incredibly well-liked," she said.

Ms. Hughes was born in Baltimore and reared in Fairfax, Va.

"When she was in third grade, she couldn't quite pronounce the word coronet, so they gave her a clarinet. From then on, she was a reed player," said Mr. Hughes with a laugh.

She earned her bachelor's degree in 1987 in bassoon performance from then-Towson State University.

Her mother, Doris Laughlin Hughes, died in 1977; and her brother, Matthew J.P. Hughes, died in 1980.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Vincent DePaul Roman Catholic Church, 120 N. Front St.

A Buddhist memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at SGI Community Center, 1583 Sulphur Spring Road, Arbutus.

In addition to her father, she is survived by an aunt, Agnes H. Burkhardt of Timonium; and her companion, Johnna Jane Alexander of Hamilton.

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Pub Date: 6/11/99

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