Photo by Ralph F. Seghers
Birth name Velma Middleton
Born September 1, 1917
Origin Holdenville, Oklahoma
Died February 10, 1961
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Associated acts Louis Armstrong
Velma Middleton (September 1, 1917 - February 10, 1961) was an American jazz vocalist.
Middleton was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma, and later moved with her parents to St. Louis, Missouri. She is best known for having sung with Louis Armstrong's big bands and small groups. She performed with Armstrong from 1942 until her death in 1961.
Middleton spent most of her career as Louis Armstrong's singer. She was originally a dancer and, although overweight, she often did splits on stage, even during her Armstrong years. Middleton had an average but pleasing and good-humored voice. After freelancing, including a visit to South America in 1938 with Connie McLean's Orchestra and performing as a solo act, she joined Louis Armstrong's big band in 1942, appearing on some Soundies with Satchmo.
After Armstrong broke up the orchestra in 1947, Middleton joined his All-Stars. She was often used for comic relief, such as for duets with Satchmo on "That's My Desire" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside", and she did occasional features. Few jazz critics thought highly of her singing, but Armstrong considered her part of his family, and she was a constant part of his show.
She recorded eight selections as a leader for the Dootone label, in 1948 and 1951.
From left: Jack Teagarden, Sandy DeSantis, Velma Middleton, Fraser MacPherson, Cozy Cole, Arvell Shaw, Earl Hines, Barney Bigard at the Palomar Supper Club in Vancouver (March 17, 1951)
While touring with Armstrong in Sierra Leone, she had a stroke or heart attack on January 25, 1961, and died on February 10, 1961, in the Hill Station Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone.