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, R&B and 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".


LaSalle was 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 take up other paid labor to support her family.[6]

She was raised in Belzoni from age seven[9] and sang in church choirs for local gospel groups around Leflore County,[10] to age 13, when she moved to Chicago in the early 1960s to live with her eldest 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. A 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 best 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 also continued to perform live and to produce. Her co-penned song "Married, But Not to Each Other" (#16 R&B) was included on the 1979 compilation album The Best of Barbara Mandrell.[citation needed]

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]

She appeared at the 1984 and 1993 versions of the Long Beach Blues Festival. In 1993, she also performed at the San Francisco Blues Festival. Her album, Smokin' In Bed (1997), sold well.[12] After more than a decade away, during which she recorded three albums with Ecko, a small Memphis-based soul-blues label, she returned to Malaco to release an album in 2010, titled 24 Hour Woman. She continued to work as a live performer, particularly at festivals, and more recently had branched out into the gospel genre.[citation needed]

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[]

Her first marriage was to Bill Jones in 1969; they divorced in 1974.[8] Both of them collaborated in producing records, and they went on to establish an independent production company, Crajon Records.[9][6] In 1977, she married disc jockey James E. “Super Wolfe” Wolfe Jr.;[11] she had two children.[8]

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





  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. June 9, 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 (June 30, 2017). "Featured interview – Denise LaSalle". BluesBlast.
  10. ^ Nelson, Jimmy (January 9, 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[]