Valerie Wellington belted out the Blues

Sat, 1959-11-14

On this date in 1959, Valerie Wellington was born. She was an African American blues singer.

Born in Chicago, Valerie Eileen Hall trained as an opera singer at Chicago's American Conservatory of Music for three years. She learned piano as a youngster and played with local blues man Lee "Shot" Williams at the age of 15. In 1982 she came to the notice of the blues audience as a singer by portraying Ma Rainey in a local musical stage play and two years later, she recorded her debut album for the Rooster label, which received "rave" reviews from the critics, all of whom commented on the power of Wellington's voice.

In 1987, she contributed one track to Alligator Record’s The New Bluebloods, an anthology of younger blues artists, as well as providing music to several television commercials. As a blues-woman she fit right in, not only becoming a regular in the blues clubs but also compiling an impressive theatrical resume for her portrayals of women who, like opera singers, learned to project their voices without microphones.

The influence of Koko Taylor has also been evident in Wellington's musical approach, which combines classic vaudeville-era blues with hard-driving Chicago sounds.

Sadly, Valerie Wellington died from a brain aneurysm at the age of 33 on January 2, 1993, in Maywood, Illinois.

Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

To Become a Musician or Singer

Person / name: 

Wellington, Valerie