Blues singer Valerie Wellington, known for her raucous, shot-and-a-beer vocal style, has died at age 33 of a brain aneurysm.
Wellington, who completed a monthlong tour of Japan in late December, became ill New Year’s Eve and died Jan. 2 at Loyola U. Medical Center in suburban Maywood, family members said.
Wellington was a Chicago native and a graduate of the city’s American Conservatory of Music.
“She was trained in opera, but she chose to sing the blues,” said Dr. Lenin (Doc) Pellegrino, a longtime friend.
Wellington also used her knowledge of classic blues to pursue an acting career, specializing in playing singers of the past.
She portrayed Ma Rainey in the 1984 stage production “The Heart of the Blues” and later played the title role in “The Little Dreamer: A Night in The Life of Bessie Smith.” In 1989, she played 1950s blues singer Big Maybell in “Great Balls of Fire,” a movie based on the life of singer Jerry Lee Lewis.
Survivors include her parents and a sister.