Move over, New York and the ladies of “She’s Got the Power!” Because a true daughter of Dixie, Lavelle White, who can be claimed to varying degrees by Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi (not to mention Chicago), is bringing her singular mix of blues, R&B, gospel, and funk to the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp.
Schooled in the blues by guitarist Clarence Holliman, Lavelle White broke onto the scene by recording numerous singles for Don Robey’s Duke label, including today’s Song of the Day, “Stop These Teardrops,” which features Mac Rebennack on piano.
“Listen. I want to explain something to everybody. I am not a blues singer! I sing blues because that’s what people want. I also sing funk, soul, country, and spiritual. I’m all of that. When I first started singing, it was rhythm and blues. I didn’t just do blues. … With me, it’s funk, soul, blues, jazz, and a little rap.” Thus does chanteuse Miss Lavelle White set the record straight in the book “Women in Texas Music: Stories and Songs.”
White’s music career began in the 1950s, when she brought her powerful Dinah Washington-influenced vocal style and songwriting talents to Houston’s rich R&B scene. Early on she worked with Clarence Holliman: “I came to the clubs singing, and I couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag. Clarence taught me my timing.” She eventually got a break and started recording for Don Robey’s Duke/Peacock label with assistance from Johnny “Clyde” Copeland. “He was on the first record that I did for Duke Records: ‘If I Could Be With You”/”Teenage Love.”
The Mississippi-born White waxed nearly a dozen singles for Duke, including “Just Look at You Fool,” “The Tide of Love,” “Yes, I’ve Been Crying,” and “Stop These Teardrops.” She also wrote “Lead Me On” for Duke labelmate Bobby “Blue” Bland and toured nationally throughout the 1950s and ’60s with artists such as B.B. King, James Brown, Junior Parker, Sam Cooke, Gene Chandler, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinson.
In the late 1970s White moved to Chicago and became a favorite on the local blues scene, headlining at the Kingston Mines and other clubs from 1978 to 1987 and working with Junior Wells and the Louisiana-born bluesmen Lonnie “Guitar Junior” Brooks and Buddy Guy. Of Guy she says: “Go to Buddy Guy’s club. He’s a wonderful person. He’s marvelous. He’s beautiful.”
She returned to Houston in 1988 and once again began working the clubs, eventually settling in Austin in the early 1990s, where she recorded three highly acclaimed CDs, “Miss Lavelle,” “It Haven’t Been Easy,” and “Into the Mystic.” A four-time W.C. Handy Awards nominee and a Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee, White is an exciting addition to the Ponderosa Stomp lineup.