Denise LaSalle

Denise LaSalle
Denise LaSalle performing at the 2009 Monterey Blues Festival.
Background information
Birth name Ora Denise Allen
Also known as Denise Craig, Denise Jones
Born (1939-07-16)July 16, 1939
Leflore County, Mississippi, United States
Origin Belzoni, Mississippi, United States
Died January 8, 2018(2018-01-08) (aged 78)
Jackson, Tennessee, United States
Genres Blues, R&B, soul, disco
Years active 1967–2018
Website Official site

Ora Denise Allen (July 16, 1939 – January 8, 2018),[1][2][3] known by the stage name Denise LaSalle, was an American blues and R&B/soul singer, songwriter, and record producer who, since the death of Koko Taylor, had been recognized as the "Queen of the Blues".[4]

Her best known songs were "Trapped by a Thing Called Love" and "Down Home Blues".


Born near Sidon, Mississippi[5] as the youngest of eight children to Nathaniel A. Allen, Sr. and Nancy Cooper.[6][7][8] Her family worked as sharecroppers and she had to pick cotton and took up other labor jobs to support her family.[6] She was raised in Belzoni (moving there at the age of 7),[9] and sang in church choirs for local gospel groups around LeFlore County,[10] before moving to Chicago in the early 1960s when she was aged 13, to live with her oldest brother.[8][11] She sat in with R&B musicians and wrote songs, influenced by country music as well as the blues, before winning a recording contract with Chess Records in 1967. Her first single, "A Love Reputation" was a modest regional hit.[12]

She established an independent production company, Crajon, with her then husband Bill Jones.[12] Her song "Trapped By a Thing Called Love" (1971) was released on Detroit-based Westbound Records. This reached #1 on the national R&B chart and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song ranked at #85 on the 1971 year-end chart. The RIAA gold disc award was made on November 30, 1971 for a million sales.[13]

She also wrote successful follow-ups, "Now Run and Tell That" and "Man Sized Job" which made #3 and #4 in the R&B Top Ten and also charted in the Hot 100. Her early hits were recorded at the Hi recording studios in Memphis, operated by Willie Mitchell, using the cream of southern session players. She continued to have hits on Westbound and then on ABC Records through the mid-1970s, including "Love Me Right" (#10 R&B, #80 pop) She continued to produce and perform live. Her co-penned song, "Married, But Not to Each Other" (#16 R&B) was included in the 1979 The Best of Barbara Mandrell, compilation album.

In the early 1980s, she signed as a singer and songwriter with Malaco Records, for whom she released a string of critically acclaimed albums over more than 20 years, starting with Lady in the Street (1983) and Right Place, Right Time (1984). Both albums became successful among soul blues, R&B and soul fans and on urban radio stations.[which?] In 1985, she enjoyed her only recognition in the UK Singles Chart, when her cover version of Rockin' Sidney's "My Toot Toot" reached #6.[14]

LaSalle appeared at the 1984 and 1993 versions of the Long Beach Blues Festival, and also in 1993, she performed at the San Francisco Blues Festival. Her album Smokin' In Bed (1997) sold well.[12] After more than a decade away, when she recorded three albums with small Memphis-based soul-blues label, Ecko, she returned to Malaco for her 2010 outing called "24 Hour Woman". She continues to work as a live performer, particularly at festivals, and more recently has branched out into the gospel genre. In 2011, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[15]

LaSalle lived with her husband, James E. Wolfe, in Jackson, Tennessee, where she opened a restaurant called Blues Legend Café.[16] The restaurant was located at 436 E. Main Street,[17] but has since closed.[18]

In 2013 and 2014, LaSalle was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Female Artist' category.[19][20] On June 6, 2015, LaSalle was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.[6]

Personal life and death[]

After suffering from heart problems, and complications from a fall resulting in her right leg being amputated in October 2017, LaSalle died on January 8, 2018 surrounded by her family, at the age of 78.[11][3]

She was first married to Bill Jones in 1969 but divorced in 1974.[8] Both of them collaborated in producing records, and they went on to established an independent production company, Crajon Records.[9][6] She later married her second husband, disc jockey James E. “Super Wolfe” Wolfe Jr.[11] in 1977, and have two children.[8]





  1. ^ Richard Skelly (1939-07-16). "Denise LaSalle | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  2. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 203. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  3. ^ a b "'Queen of the Blues' Denise LaSalle dies". Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  4. ^ "14th Annual Jus' Blues Music Awards Conference | MS Homecoming". 2014-08-02. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  5. ^ Mississippi Blues Trail website,; accessed June 23, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "Herstory: A Biography in Blues Denise LaSalle, Queen of the Blues". Wordpress. 9 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Eagle, Bob L.; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. ABC-CLIO. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-3133-4424-4. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Denise LaSalle Biography". Musician Guide. 
  9. ^ a b Dahl, Bill (30 June 2017). "Featured interview – Denise LaSalle". BluesBlast. 
  10. ^ Nelson, Jimmy (9 January 2018). "Denise LaSalle, Soul-Blues Belter (1939-2018): An Appreciation". Something Else! Reviews. 
  11. ^ a b c Di Nunzio, Miriam (9 January 2018). "'Blues Queen' Denise LaSalle, dies at 78". Chicago Sun Times. 
  12. ^ a b c Profile,; accessed June 23, 2014.
  13. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London, UK: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 296. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 313. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  15. ^ "2011 Hall of Fame inductees". Archived from the original on 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  16. ^ "Blues Legend Cafe Promo". Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  17. ^ "Music Heritage, Jackson, TN Denise LaSalle info". Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  18. ^ "Blues Legend Cafe". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  19. ^ "Blues Music Awards Nominees – 2013 – 34th Blues Music Awards". Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  20. ^ "2014 Blues Music Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 

External links[]