Miss Rhapsody Viola Wells


Photo from Barbara J Kukla Papers

Born in Newark, Viola Wells, known as Miss Rhapsody was an internationally acclaimed jazz, blues and religious singer.

In Newark, she sang for local jazz clubs in the 1920s and started out with the Salica Johnson Glee Club. She also performed in New York and nationally, playing with Count Basie’s Orchestra and the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. She appeared with the Count Basic orchestra at Franklin D Roosevelt’s Inaugural Ball.

During a career break from 1947-1965, she was involved with New Eden Baptist Church, singing with the Senior Choir and directing the Junior Choir. She was also active in the Newark branch of the National Council for Negro Women.

In 1975, Wells was profiled in a French TV documentary and she was featured in several international festivals. She received the keys to the city from Mayor Gibson in the early 1980s.

Wells attended Cleveland Elementary and Junior High Schools.


Barbara J Kukla Papers

Cummings, Charles. Meet three divine divas: Miss Rhapsody, `Sassy’ and Whitney. Feb 20, 1997

 “Viola Wells Evans Dies at 82;Singer Called Miss Rhapsody”The New York Times. 7 January 1985. Retrieved 7 September 2014.

Barbara J. Kukla (1 March 2002). Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-3116-8.

Joan N. Burstyn (1 October 1996). Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. Syracuse University Press. p. 418. ISBN 978-0-8156-0418-1.