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If Ruby Wilson was in the house, you knew it!

Ruby Wilson had a way of establishing her presence that let everyone in the “house” know that she was there to make a difference.

Nowhere was that more evident than B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. That’s where Preston Shannon and others staged a bittersweet remembrance late Friday afternoon after learning that the “Queen of Beale Street” had died about four hours earlier.

If Ruby Wilson was in the house, you knew it!

Echoing the indisputable truth – “she was an awesome talent” – Shannon tied himself back to the early days of the club, noting that the club’s namesake would make two or three much-anticipated appearances a year. With that backdrop, Shannon, the electric blues and soul blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, whose name is etched among the musical notes embedded along the sidewalks lining Beale Street, shared a memory.

“Ruby would always be on the show and I would be on the show. She and I got to arguing one night about who was going to go on first. I said. ‘Ruby, I’m going before you. I’m not coming behind you.’ So we got that straight that night. I always go on before Ruby because she would knock everybody out. We are going to really miss her.”

Wilson “passed peacefully” at her home at 1:10 p.m. Friday after suffering heart failure several days earlier, a family spokesman said. Doctors at Methodist South Hospital were able to restart Wilson’s heart after it failed last Saturday, however, she never regained consciousness.

Wilson, 68, had done it all: acting and singing on stages big and small. She recorded over 10 albums and performed with legendary stars such as B. B. King, Ray Charles, Robert Goulet, The Four Tops, Isaac Hayes, Willie Nelson, and others. Her movie credits include “Black Snake Moan,” “Cookie’s Fortune,” “The Firm,” “The Client” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”

Each stop along the way, she made a difference.

Tommy Peters, the owner and founder of B.B. King’s Blues Club, said, “If it wasn’t for Ruby Wilson, we probably wouldn’t have had B.B. King’s. She was a foundational person, a foundational entertainer, a wonderful, loving spirit. Anybody who ever saw Ruby Wilson (knew) she did something that not many people can do. She touched you….”

Harking back to the days after the club’s founding, Peters said, “We were losing money until Ruby Wilson set foot on this stage. When Ruby came everything changed.”

Known for versatility and a powerful down home voice, Wilson was born on Feb. 29, 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas. She moved to Memphis in 1972, quickly establishing herself as a blues and R&B singer. When B.B. King’s Blues Club opened in 1991, Peters enlisted her to front the house band, the King Beez.

Soon after, Wilson adopted the moniker the “Queen of Beale Street.” Over the years, she entertained hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists from the club at Beale and Second.

From New Zealand to Europe to Brazil and beyond, Wilson toured the world. In recent years, she was a mainstay at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival singing a tribute to Bessie Smith.

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