Cornelia Redmond-Chavez, 50, background singer toured with Bo Diddley

March 12, 1999|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Cornelia Redmond-Chavez's stage presence as a background singer for Bo Diddley thrilled audiences worldwide. She had a hip sassiness that kept the show's star in his place. And her booming singing voice seemed destined for higher goals.

A small, attractive woman with a charming and energetic personality, Mrs. Chavez performed with the rock 'n' roll legend for 25 years. On Sunday , the 50-year-old Randallstown resident died of cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Under the stage name "Cookie V," Mrs. Chavez traveled the world with Bo Diddley.

"She knew how to work the crowd -- and her body," said Gloria Jolivet, another of Bo Diddley's three background singers. "She could shake it."

Mrs. Chavez was the only one of the background singers and band to interact with Bo Diddley and the audience between songs -- sometimes in skits, often in quick dances.

She was also good at one-liners, and her repartee with the star was one of the show's mainstays.

"You know, Bo, you look like a million dollars," she'd say.

"I do?"

"Yep, you look like something I've never seen before."

For a couple of years during the early part of her career, Mrs. Chavez took a pet monkey with her on the road. It caused considerable razzing from band members and stares by people in airports, bus and rail stations.

"The guys in the band used to always tease her monkey, calling it her baby," Ms. Jolivet said. "But she just loved the monkey."

Mrs. Chaves traveled extensively with Bo Diddley, performing in Germany, Canada and Mexico, as well as throughout the United States -- and even at the Woodstock festival in New York in the late 1960s.

Her travels several times brought her to Baltimore, where she performed at the Sportsmen's Lounge.

In addition to working with Bo Diddley, Mrs. Chavez recorded albums with other blues and rock 'n' roll stars, including Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Howlin Wolf.

"She was just a great vocalist and enjoyed music," said her sister Delores Redmond-Gibson of Randallstown. "She wasn't shy at all and just loved to sing."

A native of Cumberland, the former Cornelia Redmond moved to Washington, D.C., as a youngster and to Albuquerque, N.M., as a teen-ager. She attended college in New Mexico and began her singing career.

She met Bo Diddley during a performance in Washington.

"When he heard her, he took her right under his wing, and it was history from there," her sister said.

Failing health forced her to retire from performing in 1986, and she moved to Randallstown several years ago.

Services were held yesterday .

In addition to her husband, Michael Chavez, whom she married in 1989, she is survived by a son, Tracy Allen Smith of Albuquerque, N.M.; a daughter, Veronica Jessica Smith of Randallstown; her mother, Elizabeth Redmond of Randallstown; three brothers, Vernon Redmond Jr. of Cumberland, Michael Redmond of Randallstown and Gary Redmond of Albuquerque, N.M.; and four other sisters, Mary Redmond and Deborah Redmond-Turner, both of Randallstown, Juanita Redmond-Hurt of New York, and Dianna Redmond of Reisterstown.

Pub Date: 3/12/99

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