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Velma Middleton was born September 1, 1917 in Holdenville, Oklahoma and later moved with her parents to St. Louis, Missouri. She started her career as a chorus girl and dancer, and throughout her career performed acrobatic splits on stage despite being overweight. After working as a solo performer, and singing with Connie McLean’s Orchestra on a tour of South America, she joined Louis Armstrong’s big band in 1942, and appeared with him in soundies.

When Armstrong’s orchestra disbanded in 1947, Velma joined his All-Stars, a smaller group. She was often used for comic relief, such as for duets with Armstrong on That’s My Desire and Baby, It’s Cold Outside. She did occasional features, recorded eight tracks as a solo singer for Dootone Records in 1948 and 1951. Although she was not widely praised for her voice as average but reasonably pleasing and good-humored, Armstrong regarded her as an important and integral part of his show.

While touring with Armstrong in Sierra Leone in 1961 she had a stroke or heart attack in January and passed away the following month on February 10, 1961 in a hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Vocalist Velma Middleton was 43 years old.


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