Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Farewell to the Queen of the Blues

Dreadful news today, from a reliable source, that Denise LaSalle, the Queen of the Blues, has died at the age of 78. It's been known for some time that she was unwell and that she had a leg amputated late last year. But this news is devastating for all of us who loved her unique personality, her risque stage act, her soulful voice and her all round talent both as a performer and as a songwriter.
Born in Mississippi near Belzoni, she went to Chicago in the mid 1960s. According to an interview she did at the New Orleans Blues and Barbecue Festival in 2014, she hooked up with Billy 'The Kid' Emerson, and spent what she described as an unproductive year with Chess, although her debut record, A Love Reputation, was a local hit. She formed a record production company, Crajon, with her then husband Bill Jones and had great success with Trapped By A Thing Called Love, released on Westbound in 1971. Recorded at the Royal Studio in Memphis, her follow up singles, Now Run and Tell and Man Sized Job, were also very successful. Other hits followed on Westbound, along with albums such as Here I Am Again, which included Married, But Not To Each Other, a song which reflected the theme of many of her self penned songs. She signed for ABC and in the early 80s joined Malaco, where she recorded a string of excellent southern soul albums, including A Lady In The Street, Right Time Right Place and Rain and Fire. In 1984 she had her sole UK success when her cover of My Toot Toot became a major top ten hit.
Denise developed a reputation as a dynamic performer, often with X rated lyrics and language, but asked about this during her New Orleans interview she was unrepentant. Her songs were about life and her audience enjoyed this realism. I saw her for the first time in 1993 when she came to the UK as part of the Malaco tour along with Little Milton and Latimore and enjoyed her immensely. More recently, in 2014 she starred at the Porretta Soul Festival (pictured above) where her brilliant set included the aptly titled Still The Queen, I Forgot To Remember, Down Home Blues, I Was Stepping Out, Trapped By A Thing Called Love, Drop That Zero, My Toot Toot and Man Sized Job. In New Orleans later that year, she included Juke Joint Women, Now Run And Tell and The Walls Were Paper Thin in another great set.
Below are photos of Denise at the New Orleans BBQ Festival and at the Mean Fiddler during the Malaco tour of 1993.


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