Denise LaSalle

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Denise LaSalle
LaSalle performing at the 2009 Monterey Bay Blues Festival
LaSalle performing at the 2009 Monterey Bay Blues Festival
Background information
Birth nameOra Denise Allen
Also known asDenise Craig, Denise Jones
Born(1939-07-16)July 16, 1939
Leflore County, Mississippi, United States
DiedJanuary 8, 2018(2018-01-08) (aged 78)
Jackson, Tennessee, United States
GenresBlues, R&B, soul, disco
Years active1967–2018
WebsiteOfficial site

Ora Denise Allen (July 16, 1939 – January 8, 2018),[1][2][3][4] 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".[5]

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

Early life[edit]

LaSalle was born near Sidon, Mississippi,[6] as the youngest of eight children, to Nathaniel A. Allen Sr. and Nancy Cooper.[7][8][9] Her family worked as sharecroppers, and she had to pick cotton and take up other paid labor to support her family.[7]

She was raised in Belzoni from age seven[10] and sang in church choirs for local gospel groups around Leflore County.[11] At age 13, she moved to Chicago to live with her oldest brother.[9][12]


She sat in with R&B musicians and wrote songs, influenced by country music as well as the blues. Around 1963, while she was working as barmaid at the Mix's Lounge, she met Billy "The Kid" Emerson, who at that time was working for Chess Records. This resulted in a one year recording contract with Chess; however, no recording sessions were done. Later on Emerson started his own label, Tarpon, and in 1967 he recorded LaSalle on his label.[9] The single, "A Love Reputation", was a modest regional hit.[13]

She established an independent production company, Crajon, with her then husband Bill Jones.[13] 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.[14] Reviewing her 1972 debut album of the same name, Robert Christgau wrote in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981): "LaSalle seems to be a songwriter first and a singer second, which may be why there's a certain professional anonymity about her unusual moods. But the voice is there—sensual, warm, even wise, ideal for [producer] Willie Mitchell's meditative Memphis funk. And because she's a pretty good songwriter, just about every one of these twelve tracks offers its professional pleasures.[15]

She also wrote successful follow-ups, "Now Run and Tell That" and "Man Sized Job", which made #3 and number 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 Mitchell, using the best southern session players. She continued to have hits and made three albums on the Westbound label.

At 1976 she moved to Jackson and signed a contract with ABC Records. On ABC she had another hit, "Love Me Right" (#10 R&B, #80 pop). ABC was taken over by MCA, and LaSalle made three albums for MCA. She also continued to perform live and to produce. Her co-penned song "Married, But Not to Each Other" was included on the 1979 compilation album The Best of Barbara Mandrell.[16]

In 1982 LaSalle signed as songwriter for the Malaco label, where she wrote songs for Z.Z. Hill among others.[17] She was then persuaded to also record herself; this resulted in the album "Lady In The Street" in 1983. She continued to record for Malaco for 15 years, and released a string of critically acclaimed albums, starting with Lady in the Street (1983) and Right Place, Right Time (1984). Her R&B, soul blues, and soul songs were played on urban radio stations in southern states. 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.[18]

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.[13]

LaSalle has in interviews stated that during the Westbound and ABC/MCA years she was free to record any song she liked, but at Malaco she was more limited. Malaco was a blues label, and wanted her to record mainly 'hard blues'.[17]

After the Malaco years, LaSalle started her own label Ordena, and released a few albums, including God’s Got My Back which is a gospel album, and This Real Woman (2-CD set) which is a mixture of everything, it includes country, R&B, blues and pop.[17]

In 2002 LaSalle was again recording for a new label, this time for Ecko Records, a small Memphis-based soul-blues label, the first album was Still the Queen.

After more than a decade away, she returned to Malaco to release an album in 2010, titled 24 Hour Woman.

In 2011, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[19]

LaSalle lived with her husband, James E. Wolfe, in Jackson, Tennessee, where she opened a restaurant called Blues Legend Café.[20] The restaurant was located at 436 E. Main Street,[21] but has since closed.[22]

Personal life and death[edit]

Her first marriage was to Bill Jones in 1969; they divorced in 1974.[9] Both of them collaborated in producing records, and they went on to establish an independent production company, Crajon Records.[10][7] In 1977, she married James E. “Super Wolfe” Wolfe Jr.[12] He was a disc jockey at that time, later on he ran several radio stations, and became a preacher.[17] LaSalle had two children.[9]

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.[12][4][1]


In 2009, LaSalle was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in Belzoni.[6]

In 2013 and 2014, LaSalle was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Female Artist' category.[23][24]

On June 6, 2015, LaSalle was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.[7]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Denise LaSalle among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[25]



  • 1967 A Love Reputation.
  • 1971 Craving For You.
  • 1972 Trapped By A Thing Called Love
  • 1973 On The Loose
  • 1973 Doin' It Right (compilation)
  • 1975 Here I Am Again
  • 1976 Second Breath
  • 1977 The Bitch Is Bad!
  • 1978 Under The Influence
  • 1978 Shot Of Love.
  • 1979 Unwrapped
  • 1980 I'm So Hot
  • 1981 And Satisfaction Guaranteed
  • 1983 A Lady In The Street
  • 1984 Right Place, Right Time
  • 1985 Love Talkin'
  • 1985 My Toot Toot (reissue)
  • 1986 Rain & Fire
  • 1987 It's Lying Time Again
  • 1988 Hittin' Where It Hurts
  • 1989 Holdin' Hands With The Blues (reissue)
  • 1990 Still Trapped
  • 1992 Love Me Right
  • 1994 Still Bad
  • 1997 Smokin' In Bed
  • 1999 God's Got My Back
  • 2000 This Real Woman (2CD)
  • 2001 There's No Separation
  • 2001 I Get What I Want: Best Of The ABC/MCA Years
  • 2002 Still The Queen
  • 2003 My Toot Toot: The Definitive Anthology (2CD)
  • 2004 Wanted
  • 2007 Pay Before You Pump
  • 2010 24 Hour Woman
  • 2019 Mississippi Woman Steppin' Out Live! [rec. 2007]


  • 1967 "A Love Reputation" / "One Little Thing"
  • 1968 "Private Property" / "I've Been Waiting"
  • 1968 "Count Down (And Fly Me To The Moon)" / "A Promise Is A Promise"
  • 1970 "Too Late To Check Your Trap" / "The Right Track"
  • 1970 "Heartbreaker Of The Year" / "Hung Up, Strung Out"
  • 1971 "Trapped By A Thing Called Love" / "Keep It Coming"
  • 1972 "Now Run And Tell That" / "The Deeper I Go (The Better It Gets)"
  • 1972 "A Man Sized Job" / "I'm Over You"
  • 1973 "What It Takes To Get A Good Woman" / "Make a Good Thing Better"
  • 1973 "Your Man And Your Best Friend / "What Am I Doing Wrong"
  • 1973 "Don't Nobody Live Here (By The Name Of Fool)" / "Good Goody Getter"
  • 1974 "Get Up Off My Mind" / "The Best Thing I Ever Had"
  • 1974 "Trying To Forget" / "We've Got Love"
  • 1975 "My Brand On You" / "Any Time Is The Right Time"
  • 1975 "Here I Am Again" / "Hung Up, Strung Out"
  • 1976 "Married, But Not To Each Other" / "Who's The Fool"
  • 1976 "Hellfire Loving" / "I Get What I Want"
  • 1977 "Freedom To Express Yourself" / "Second Breath"
  • 1977 "Love Me Right" / "Fool Me Good"
  • 1978 "One Life To Live" / "Before You Take It To The Streets"
  • 1978 "Workin' Overtime" / "No Matter What They Say"
  • 1979 "P.A.R.T.Y. (Where It Is)" / "Under The Influence"
  • 1979 "Think About It" / "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy"
  • 1980 "I'm So Hot" / "A Miracle, You And Me"
  • 1980 "Try My Love" / "May The Funk Be With You"
  • 1981 "I'm Trippin' On You" / "I'll Get You Some Help"
  • 1981 "I'll Get You Some Help" / "Sharing Your Love"
  • 1983 "A Lady In The Street" / "I Was Not The Best Woman"
  • 1983 "Lay Me Down" / "I Was Telling Him About You"
  • 1983 "Down Home Blues" / "Down Home Blues (X-Rated Version)"
  • 1984 "Right Place, Right Time" / "He's Not Available"
  • 1984 "Treat Your Man Like A Baby" / "Come To Bed"
  • 1985 "My Toot Toot" / "Give Me Yo' Most Strongest Whiskey"
  • 1985 "Santa Claus Got The Blues" / "Love Is A Five Letter Word"
  • 1986 "What's Going On In My House" / "Be's That Way Sometimes"
  • 1986 "Let The Four Winds Blow" / "Sometimes" / "Right Place, Right Time" [12" single]
  • 1987 "Hold What You've Got" / "Footprints Of A Fool"
  • 1989 "Don't Cry No More" / "Eee Tee"
  • 1989 "Bring It On Home To Me" / "Write This One Off (As A Loss)"
  • 1989 "I Forgot To Remember" / "Caught In Your Own Mess"
  • 1990 "Drop That Zero" / "Chain Letter"
  • 1992 "Don't Jump My Pony" / "Don't Pick It Up"
  • 1992 "When We're Making Love" / "Don't Pick It Up" [12" single]
  • 1995 "Right Side Of The Wrong Bed" / "Child Of The Ghetto"
  • 2001 "There's No Separation" / "If I'm Only For Myself (Who's Gonna Be For Me)" [4-song EP]


  1. ^ a b "Denise LaSalle, Southern soul singer and earthy lyricist, dies at 83". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Richard Skelly (1939-07-16). "Denise LaSalle | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  3. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 203. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  4. ^ a b "'Queen of the Blues' Denise LaSalle dies". Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  5. ^ "14th Annual Jus' Blues Music Awards Conference | MS Homecoming". 2014-08-02. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  6. ^ a b Mississippi Blues Trail website,; accessed June 23, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d "Herstory: A Biography in Blues Denise LaSalle, Queen of the Blues". Wordpress. June 9, 2015.
  8. ^ Eagle, Bob L.; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. ABC-CLIO. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-3133-4424-4.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Denise LaSalle Biography". Musician Guide.
  10. ^ a b Dahl, Bill (June 30, 2017). "Featured interview – Denise LaSalle". BluesBlast.
  11. ^ Nelson, Jimmy (January 9, 2018). "Denise LaSalle, Soul-Blues Belter (1939-2018): An Appreciation". Something Else! Reviews.
  12. ^ a b c Di Nunzio, Miriam (January 9, 2018). "'Blues Queen' Denise LaSalle, dies at 78". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c Profile,; accessed June 23, 2014.
  14. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London, UK: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 296. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: L". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies The Best of Barbara Mandrell – via
  17. ^ a b c d Jefferson Magazine no 135
  18. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 313. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  19. ^ "2011 Hall of Fame inductees". Archived from the original on 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  20. ^ "Blues Legend Cafe Promo". Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  21. ^ "Music Heritage, Jackson, TN Denise LaSalle info". Archived from the original on 2014-02-20. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
  22. ^ "Blues Legend Cafe". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  23. ^ "Blues Music Awards Nominees – 2013 – 34th Blues Music Awards". Retrieved 2013-03-21.
  24. ^ "2014 Blues Music Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2014-05-16.
  25. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.

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