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Ruby Wilson

1948 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Ruby Wilson (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
Ruby Wilson, the singer known as the Queen of Beale Street, died Aug. 12, 2016, according to multiple news sources. She was 68.

Wilson’s manager, Rollin Riggs of the Resource Entertainment Group, said she had been hospitalized following a heart attack Aug. 6. She did not regain consciousness after the cardiac event.

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 Memphis blues.

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.

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In 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 TV commercials and had small parts in the films “Black Snake Moan,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” and “The Client.”

She was given a brass note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame and was honored with many awards, including the WC Handy Heritage Life Time Achievement Award.

She had a stroke in 2009 and couldn’t speak for four months. She persevered, however, and resumed live performances again. Afterward, she became an ambassador for the and worked with other singers recovering from strokes.

Wilson is survived by her four children, a sister, four brothers, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

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