Saturday, August 13, 2016

Passings: Ruby Wilson, the "Queen of Beale Street" (1948 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Ruby Wilson, who was affectionately known as the "Queen of Beale Street" died on Friday (August 12) in the aftermath of a heart attack she suffered earlier in the week. She was 68.

Wilson was born in Ft. Worth, TX, the youngest of six children. Her mother filled her with a love of gospel music and, at 7, began singing in the church choir, while her father exposed her to the blues.

At the age of 14, she first met B.B. King with whom she became close and, the next year, gospel great Shirley Caesar heard her singing in church and invited her to tour as a backup singer. She later moved to Chicago to become the choir director of a church.

In 1972, Wilson moved to Memphis to be a teacher but also began performing in clubs around the town. She also had a weekly residency at B.B. King's new blues club and, later, a restaurant that he opened. Her reputation grew and Ruby soon found a demand for her performances at festivals around the world and before world leaders.

Her first album was released in 1981 and she went on to record a total of ten. She also started acting with roles in The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Chamber, Black Snake Moan and others.

In 2009, Wilson suffered a stroke and spent a number of months in intense therapy to learn to once again speak.

Last Saturday, she suffered a heart attack and went into a coma from which she never recovered.

Wilson is survived by four children, twelve children and five great grandchildren.

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