You may not recognize the name Thelma Houston at first, but once you hear the strains of her infectious Grammy-winning hit "Don't Leave Me This Way" you'll want to put on your boogie shoes and head out onto the dance floor. Well, you can strut your stuff on Thursday night when the disco diva belts out her famous tune on Hit Me Baby One More Time (NBC, 9 pm/ET). TVGuide.com caught up with Ms. Houston right before the show taped to find out what made her want to do Hit and if she ever gets sick of singing that same old song.
TVGuide.com: What have you been up to?
Thelma Houston: I've been doing great. I've been working, I just did Atlantic City last Saturday and I was in Boston the Saturday before that. I work a lot.
TVG: It pays the bills.
Houston: [Laughs] Not only that, but I really, really enjoy it. I love the performance side of it and it is a lot of fun.
TVG: How did you get involved with Hit Me Baby?
Houston: When it was going to air, I was sent a copy of the show which was originally done in Britain. I thought it looked like fun. It isn't like you are being dredged up out of nowhere and people are saying, "Oh, let's see if she can make a comeback." It is not that kind of thing at all. I think it shows that there is an appreciation for the music from the '70s.
TVG: What current song will you be doing?
Houston: I was torn between two songs. One song was Beyonce's "Crazy in Love," because I love doing up-tempo stuff. But then I thought, "Well, I'm doing 'Don't Leave Me This Way' and that is already up-tempo, so it would be fun to show a contrast and do a ballad." So I chose a ballad by the very soulful Miss Alicia Keyes. I like her a lot; she's a very talented young lady.
TVG: Sounds like you keep up with a lot of modern music.
Houston: I'm around it all the time and not only that, I have children and grandchildren and they listen to it. I try to incorporate some of the songs into my act. I don't just do all my songs, because that could be kind of boring. To me it is always refreshing to get [a singer's] take on another artist. I just think that's fun. I've always done that kind of show. I like to keep current and mix it up a little bit.
TVG: Are you excited about any of the acts that you'll be performing with?
Houston: I don't even know who is going to be on yet!
TVG: I've got the lineup. It is Club Nouveau, who did "Lean on Me"... Houston: Oh, my goodness. I do their version in concert. I did "Lean on Me" with the Winans, but in my act, I do the Club Nouveau version. I do! I like their beat. How cool!
TVG: And Billy Vera who did "At this Moment"...
Houston: Oh, my gosh. I love Billy Vera's voice!
TVG: Greg Kihn, who did the "The Breakup Song," and the band Glass Tiger, who did "Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone."
Houston: Oh, wow! That is a heavy-duty show. That's fun.
Houston: I'm there for fun. I think that the competition makes it fun for the audience. But I'm excited, now that you told me who's going to be on the show, about meeting these other artists. Most of these people I'm sure are out singing all the time, but if people don't see you and have that visual, they think, "Oh, whatever happened to...?"
TVG: Are you surprised that "Don't Leave Me This Way" has remained so popular?
Houston: I am. I knew it would be fun to dance to, but for the success that it had and to win a Grammy for it, I just had no idea. And then to have it still around and have people still dancing to it — it is so amazing to me.
TVG: So you aren't ever thinking, "Oh no, not that song again."
Houston: No, no, no. I still love singing it and my grandkids are singing it, and their kids will be singing it.
TVG: But when you are doing something like Hit Me Baby, do you ever wish you could do one of your other hits?
Houston: No. This is definitely the song for this show.
TVG: Have you watched any of the other episodes?
Houston: I've watched them all.
TVG: Were you impressed by any of the performers?
Houston: I've been impressed by a lot of people, but the one that surprised me was how much the audience loved Vanilla Ice. Not that I don't, but for a while there he was treated like such an underdog, really a put-down and they would say mean things. But they went nuts over him and that was great to see.
TVG: Are you working on another album?
Houston: Yes. We don't have a name for it yet. I'm not in a rush, but the concept is songs that I wish I had recorded. I'm going to do a classic type album, which I've always wanted to do and now it seems like everybody is doing that kind of thing. People are starved for good music.