Denise LaSalle (real name Denise Craig) was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and raised in LeFlore County.
After serving her apprenticeship singing in church, she moved to Chicago where her big break came.
Her inaugural single, A Love Reputation (1966), was a local hit on the Tarpon label – initially, a vanity press for its owner, Billy “The Kid” Emerson, who christened Craig ‘LaSalle’ and was taken up for distribution by Chess.
After recording two more singles for Leonard and Phil Chess – both sadly flops – she tried her hand at Westbound, where she hit the #1 spot on the US R&B chart with Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1971), before signing in 1976 to ABC, with whom she released three LP’s.
Along with singers like Ann Peebles and Millie Jackson, LaSalle acquired a reputation as a writer and singer who frankly detailed the emotional peaks and valleys of a relationship from a woman’s perspective.
When the label was taken over by MCA she recorded another three for them. Denise was released from her MCA contract in 1981.
In 1983, one of her original songs (Steppin’ Out) caught the ear of soul/blues singer Z. Z. Hill and catapulted LaSalle into a new contract with Malaco, which spawned her first album in many years, Right Place, Right Time. The LP stayed in Billboard‘s Black LPs chart for more than six months.