Ruby Wilson, Singer Known as Queen of
Beale Street, Dies August 12 at age 68
Performed with Climax in Japan -- adored by the crowds
Ruby Wilson, the blues, soul and gospel singer known as the Queen of Beale Street, died on Friday in Memphis. She was 68.
Rollin Riggs, her manager, said that she died at a hospital six days after suffering a heart attack.
She sang blues, soul and gospel and became a fixture of Memphis' Beale Street entertainment district. She sang at
nightclubs, including B.B. King's Blues Club, where she had a regular weekly performance. Known primarily for her
live performances, she played many international festivals and was an attraction for tourists looking to experience authentic
Born in Fort Worth Texas in 1948, Wilson got her start singing as a child in the church choir. She moved to memphis in
1972 to further her professional singing career, She played local clubs such as The Peabody, Club Handy, Club Royale and
the Hawaiian Isle before settling in at B.B. King's Blues Club in 1991, according to Riggs.
'Ruby's strength was in reading the audience and reaching out to them and inviting them to be part of the show." fellow
Beale Street performer Susan Marshall told the Tennessean.
On addition to live performances, WIlson also recorded 10 albums and performed with B.B. King, Ray Charles, The Four
Tops and Isaac Hayes. She appeared in many local T.V. commercials and had small parts in the films 'Black Snake
Moan', The People vs. Larry Flynt', 'The Client', The Chamber' (1996) and Robert Altman’s “Cookie’s Fortune” (1999),
which opens in a blues club where Ms. Wilson was singing.
She was given a brass note on the Beale Street Walk Of Fame and was honoured with many awards, including the W.C.
Handy Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award.
She also performed in Europe and Asia and at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and sang in church choirs,
including that of the Rev. Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis.
After a stroke in 2009, Ms. Wilson couldn't speak for many months. However, she persevered and resumed live
performance again. Afterward she became an ambassador for the American Stroke Association and worked with other
singers recovering from strokes. She performed at a benefit last week Mr. Riggs said.
Ruby is survived by her four children, a sister, four brothers, 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.(Climax Blog editor's note: The Climax Jazz Band had the privilege of performing with Ruby at Shinji Shumeikai
International Centre, Shiga Prefecture, Japan In October 1995 and May 1996, recorded on Konnichiwa! Japan and
Konnichiwa II. Ruby was a powerful no holds-barred singer with a strong personality and magnetism., firing up the
audience with her blues and gospel songs. She died much too early but leaves lots of fond memories.