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Viola Wells

b. 14 Dec 1902, Newark, NJ, USA, d. 22 Dec 1984, NEW YORK, USA. Touring the TOBA circuit like a traditional blues vocalist in the 30s Wells fulfilled and wedded guitarist Harold Underhill. She was a much-admired jazz and blues vocalist in her day time, winning considerable respect, and envy, from her fellow performers and music artists. In the first to middle-40s, billed as ‘The Ebony Stay Of Dynamite’, she became an enormous achievement at Harlem’s Apollo Theater on 125th Road, and experienced her personal radio displays as both performer and disk jockey. Despite such publicity she recorded just 3 x in her heyday (for Savoy Information in 1944-45) and retired from music in 1946 due to diabetes. In the middle-60s she was rediscovered by blues historian Sheldon Harris, who persuaded her to check for Columbia Information and reunited her with Victoria Spivey, who documented a small number of edges by ‘Miss Rhapsody’. She continued to be in obscurity until Apr 1972 when she was once again presented of pension to record a jazz blues record for the Saydisc-Matchbox label in NEW YORK. Her last years had been, happily, utilized touring as vocalist with Clyde Bernhardt’s Harlem Blues And Jazz Music group.

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