Remembering Vala Cupp

A note about this space
Dr Gone
March 21, 2008
The message board that once graced this space was removed in March of 2007 because of spam attacks. Even after the board was locked, the attacks continued in other ways.Most of the posts made by Vala’s friends and family are here, so we can still share our sweet memories of her. Every once in a while another remembrance pops up. Vala was wonderful. Thank you, Lord, for her friendship.
Vala Cupp
Karyn Walter
November 3, 2008
I’ve been thinking about Vala so much lately. I wanted to post my thoughts about her on her website. I’m just a “guitar player” and I was always inspired by guitar players. But when I heard Vala sing, that was a new inspiration to me. And as I listen to her now, she will always be an inspiration to me. I miss her so much. I am going through so much now and when I think of Vala, she is the reason I’m still here. No one told me how bad things were, and I only wish I had known. I would have been a better friend………I just didn’t know.I was listening to her sing and was remembering all the good times and trying to understand everything. I’m not good with words, but Vala was really such a beautiful, kind-hearted woman, so talented, and she really made a difference in my life. I was going through some really hard times, and she helped me through all that. I don’t think she knew that, that’s just the way she was.
Vala Cupp
Jeff Sumida
September 26, 2008
I was Vala’s roommate in 1986 in Santa Clara. She introduced me to Myron Dove for bass guitar lessons before he became famous as Santana’s bass guitar player.I was in a band looking for a lead singer so I put an ad in BAM (Bay Area Music) Magazine for a lead singer. We were surprised someone as talented as Vala Cupp would show up. Vala turned our band down. We weren’t as advanced as she was used to. She had just left MVP, replaced by Joel Selvin’s wife, Keta Bill. But I kept her phone number and called her later when I got in a new and better band. But by then, she was the lead singer for John Lee Hooker and working part time at ASK Computers as a receptionist. I had just bought my condo and was struggling to meet the mortgage in 1986. She was getting divorced and needed a place to live. So that’s how she became my very first tenant. She stayed until her father needed her to take care of him. I went to see her a few times at Slim’s in San Francisco and at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.

The sad thing is I was recently at an Art Festival at the Triton Museum here in Santa Clara. There was a blues band that I liked so I went up to talk with the band during their break. We were talking about the blues when I said Vala was my roommate. And the bass player of the band hesistated at first but then told me that Vala had committed suicide. I understand her. When she was depressed she would close the door to her room for days before coming out and explained to me that she was depressed so as not to worry me. I know it must have been tough financially as talented as she was.

Vala Cupp – condolences
Rosemary (Albanese) Bray
March 18, 2008
I just heard recently that Vala had died and I wanted to tell you and her family just how sorry I was to hear the news. Vala dated my older brother Pete while he was going to Cal Poly in the mid 70’s. They sang together many times and Pete had a band at the time – I believe it was the Pacific Street Blues Band – but I was still in high school, so I might not have gotten that quite right.Of course when any of us remember Vala, it was in amazement of how such an incredible voice came out of such a tiny person! She was beautiful, kind and took her craft seriously. She was a performer, and her respect for her music and the audience she sang for, was evident every time she took the stage. She was a force.

Thank you for her website – it was a pleasure to see her picture, hear her voice and to remember her. It made me feel better to know that, even though she wasn’t here long enough, she knew love and appreciation for the artist that she was, and the spirit that she will always be.

Celebrate Vala’s life
Amy skoczen
Wed Nov 01, 2006 7:06 am
Has it really been a year? It seems like yesterday. Maybe because not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. I miss you so much honey. Things just haven’t been the same without your magic! In Mexico, they celebrate the lives of those who passed on the Day of the Dead, Nov. 2. There will be a small celebration at the enchanted forest (where we held the memorial), for those of you who would like to honor the amazing life of Vala Cupp. The celebration starts around 7:00.
Remembering our friend Vala
Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:20 pm
Well, it’s been a year since our little bird flew. We all still miss her. I pray for her spirit, hope she’s already been comforted by God and sent on to another life. I have no doubt her spirit lives on.
Missing Vala too
Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:44 pm
We miss Vala and this still breaks (and will continue to) break our hearts….
John, Saundra and Jango the poodle
Vala Cupp
Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:45 am
October 31st will always be a day of remembering Vala’s life. I miss you Vala.
Vala Cupp, one Year Later
Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:44 am
Its been a year since you been gone, the void that you have left is still felt. I know you will always be with me wherever I go. I will never forget you.
Garth Benham
Sat Aug 19, 2006 7:44 pm
I first heard Vala sing in the summer of 1972, she was just 18 and she, her boyfriend, Peter, and I formed a trio and worked “clubs”, taverns really, in Santa Cruz. We played by night and rehearsed by day in her father’s and step mothers home in the Santa Cruz mountans.Even then, one could see Vala was special. She didn’t just “sing” blues, she “knew” blues. She didn’t have to “interpret”, she just reared back and sang and, oh, God, it was authentic and beautiful.

At the end of the summer, I went back to San Jose State and shortly after, married, graduated, left the state. That was all 34 years ago, but I still hear Vala sing. Better yet, I stil feel Vala sing. Whatever happens in my career, nothing will diminish the summer of ’72, the music, the friendship, and the beautiful person that was/is Vala Cupp.

Love you, Vala!!!!!!!!
karyn walter
Wed May 31, 2006 10:57 pm
I just heard the horrible news about Vala and it just doesn’t seem real that she is gone. I have been listening to her music all night, crying and remembering a beautiful woman and great talent. She will never be “gone” or forgotten, but I wish to God she was still physically here……… give her one more hug and tell her how special she is to me and everyone who knew her. She always told me what a great guitar player I was and wanted to record some songs with me, but I kept putting it off because I didn’t feel like I was “good enough”. She of course never made me feel that way, it was me. Her voice was so incredible (and to come out of such a tiny thing!!!) and I didn’t feel worthy of playing with her. She deserved the best. Now I am sad and heartbroken that I gave up the chance of a lifetime because of perfectionism. Vala, I will miss you terribly,and as sad as I am, I am trying to find something positive in this .You have given us a great gift. Life is short and we need to make the most of every moment……………..Your voice will forever live on in our hearts and be an inspiration to us………
An Open Letter of Love and Thanks from Vala’s sister and mom
Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:59 am
To all of you who attended the memorial concert for Vala Cupp held at JJ’s Blues in San Jose on 26th February 2006 –And especially to those of you who performed at the concert –

And MOST especially to those who organised the concert –

Thank you for the love you expressed for Vala, and for all of us who miss her so very much. By organising, performing, or even attending, you created an atmosphere of healing love and acceptance.

Special thanks to the organisers

-John Orr
-Mike and Laura Osborn
-Posters and printing – Armand Bashir
-JJ’s staff and management
-Mike Kappus
John, Mike and Laura, especially, thank you so much – and not just for the concert. You helped so much, especially in those early days when we just couldn’t believe what was happening.

Donations to MusiCares

Thanks also to Laura Osborn for contacting MusiCares and arranging for brochures to be available to those who attended the concert. We are very happy to encourage donations to MusiCares so that people in similar circumstances to Vala can get help – in a society where support is virtually nonexistent for musicians in need.

-An anonymous donor gave a donation of $1,000. in memory of Vala, given on behalf of Vala’s paternal uncle and aunt, Dick and Nila Cupp, who also died last year. This was an exceedingly generous donation and reflects the love and esteem between Uncle Dick, Aunt Nila and Vala. It has been a very hard year for our family with such great loss in such a short period of time.

-MusiCares is soon to receive direct from Johnny Perkins of ‘JJ’s Blues’ in San Jose a donation comprising a percentage of the beverage takings during the memorial concert.

-Vi Cupp has forwarded $264. which was donated at the door at the memorial concert.

On behalf of our family, I thank everyone who donated for helping musicians and hope that others are spared the pain we have all experienced.

Thanks to family members for attending

Many of Vala’s family members travelled great distances to attend. Not everyone got to meet the family, so I would like to acknowledge them here and thank them for the support and love they gave. It was wonderful to see them.

Vala’s Mom’s side of the family:

-aunt Roz Mazur, from Minnesota
-aunt Pauline Mazur (age 89!)
-mother Vi Cupp
-(and me, sister Nina McLaren with husband Ian Johnson, from Australia)

Vala’s Dad’s side of the family:

-sister Elisa Smith (Lisa Cupp)
-sister Kim Cupp

the children of uncle Dick Cupp:

-cousin Rick Cupp
-cousin Randy Cupp
-cousin Brad Cupp
-cousin Doug Cupp, his wife Christine Ramirez, and their children Lucas Cupp and Melissa Cupp

the children of great aunt Avice Nolan:

-cousin Beverley Shaw, from Idaho, and her son Chris Shaw with wife Janna Shaw
-cousin Barry Bonifas, from Nevada
-cousin Barbara Bonifas, from Montana, and her daughter and son Jocelyn Wilkinson and Spencer Wilkinson
-cousin Bruce Bonifas, and his son Henry Bonifas
-cousin Michael Merritt, and his sons Pierce Merritt and Drew Merritt

Thank you, and love –

Nina McLaren
and on behalf of Mom, Vi Cupp

Vala’s Memorial
Tue Feb 28, 2006 10:40 pm
The Feb 26th Memorial was great. John did a great job in organizing the event. These are the things that help us all out. I don’t know what happens after you die and I’m not too religious these days but I hope that her presence somehow was there with us. I thought it was wonderful to see Vi and Lisa and Kim and Nina and a lot of other people. I must have had a half a bottle of Bushmills during the course of the day and night. and bummed 2 cigarettes from Lisa. Half of me still can’t believe that Vala is gone. I was really hoping to see her friend Mary there. Well anyway I felt proud to be a part of the gathering there and to talk with people. It definetely helped.
Armand B
Pictures from the Memorial
Sat Mar 11, 2006 12:22 pm
Can be found at
Pictures of the memorial in CA
Fri Mar 03, 2006 5:00 am
I’m sure I speak for a lot of us in Austin when I say that we wanted to be in CA for the memorial, but just couldn’t swing it. It would be wonderful to see any pictures that are out there. I’m glad it was a success and I’m sure Vala was there in spirit. We sure do miss her!!!!!!
Vala’s Memoriam In the Austin Chronicle
Thu Dec 15, 2005 2:28 am
Music news
IN MEMORIAM: Last month, Vala Cupp, who spent several years touring with John Lee Hooker before moving to Austin in 1999, committed suicide at age 51. Cupp, who moved here from San Luis Opisbo, Calif., sang locally with the John Gaar Band and co-produced the unreleased Hooker tribute album From Austin With Love. “I think this town chewed her up and spit her out,” sighed her friend Greg Rhodes, who’s looking into releasing From Austin as a benefit for the SIMS Foundation.
a kind and wonderful woman-besides being a great singer
chris kinney, photography
Fri Feb 24, 2006 6:42 pm
As a photographer and blues lover I met Vala about the time I met John L., and Mike O, Kenny Baker, Larry Davis, at theJJ’s 1988 Blues Fest or their venues. I learned so much from all these kind talented people- about music, humanity, kindness, and much more. They all tolerated my smilingly asking them permission to photograph them and made me feel totally welcome. I hope they liked my photography. Every loss takes a part of my heart.On another issue that many people do not know about me- I have had depression and panic attacks. At one time I started a 12 step program in the Bay Area for Phobics Anonymous. I was on radio and tv and even some blues people who heard it and knew me called me.Of course I never told anyone else as this is is an anonymous program .I wish Vala had heard about it or told me. I might have been able to let her know that I knew what hell it is so she wouldn’t feel so alone. I know my loved ones were very supportive and her friends and family supported her too. But it is good to know others who have been thru this. I have felt uncomfortable about letting people know this about me but I also felt if I could help just one someone else, oh well, others can think i am crazy if they want to. See you on Sunday at JJ’s. Christy
My Friend…My Friend
Sat Nov 19, 2005 7:05 pm
Perhaps I can’t feel the way I would traditionally feel when an old friend passes but I can’t. I feel a sense of relief for her. She was such a complex person. I had a long and full friendship with Vala. I saw her through several men. I met her mother and sisters; I knew how she felt about her late father. And I know how much she and John loved each other. I was a tag along for many gigs with her and Lizz. I knew the whole Coast to Coast band as a true “roadie.” I know how much she loved all those guys too! Vala and I were real girlfriends. I was with her when she got that little chi chi mixed dog Zeke the first night she got him and took him on stage with her at the Raven in Heldsburg that dog was never ok after that because taking him out on stage traumatized him. She and I stayed together at this expensive bed and breakfast because we were too drunk to drive back to the bay area. We had to sleep with the light on because the damn dog was afraid of the dark. I also remember the time that I accompanied Vala to Long Beach for the blues festival there and it was the same year that the blues brothers (minus Dan and John) were also on the bill and we Vala,Lizz, and myself took over the Carlos and Charlies’s across the street from the hotel with Donald Duck Dunn and Blue Lou Marini and lots of other musician types. We closed the place and were all running around the hotel like kids in summer camp.I was her flower girl when she married Stan. In fact I stayed with them on their honeymoon. There are so many stories I have like these. She looked and sounded her best then. I was there with her and that was special I know. We drank together and we really laughed together…I mean really laughed! I was always in awe of her talent. And her hair never looked better then when I was doing it! When she was on she was the best blues singer in our time! I also knew her when she moved back from Oklahoma and stayed with me. She tried being straight and got a real job that received a real steady paycheck…I know how hard she tried to take care of business. I was one of the real lucky people who really had a great experience knowing what kind of woman she truly was. Even in her vunerable stages she always had compassion for everyone. That is except herself. My friend suffered mentally and had to constantly fight demons within herself. Yet, only when it was intolerable for her to hide did we really know. And towards the later part of her singing carreer you could hear it before the drink affected her pitch. Her frame was small and her heart was just too big for it. I know that all Vala really wanted was to feel truly loved. It was just so hard for her to feel it because she couldn’t work it for herself. I also know that it mattered how each and every one of you who knew her as I did felt about her. I don’t think I’ll miss her because I have the best of her in memories with me. My friend ….she was my friend. Love always –Josie
I knew another Vala
Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:59 am
I knew the Vala of the late 70s who didn’t feel confident singing in front of folks without some fortification but wanted so badly to do a killer job of “Lush Life.” In many ways the song fit her and I spent a lot of sleepless nights wishing it didn’t. It sounds like you were the friend she needed. I hope this finds you well and happy.
Thanks for the responses…
Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:16 am
What has been amazing is the way people say universally how kind this woman was. It just brings more to mind about all the fans Vala had. Not only in the audience but the guys who backed her up because she made them sound so good. I forgot about that…isn’t it funny how the balance of being so exceptionally talented at something can take from somewhere else? All the years of hanging around so many musicans I find there is such a small window of opportunity and then it is what remains…the inability to refrain. To be the receiver of the applause and the focus to thousands of stimulated fans…hours later to be the loneliest soul in world….How manic can that be?
Re: Thanks for the responses…
Thu Dec 01, 2005 6:02 pm
“Josie”: What has been amazing is the way people say universally how kind this woman was.
Despite our strong connections to the music industry, Vala and I became friends through other channels and while I immediately learned of her talent, over time I was most aware of her kindness. It was odd how little we talked about music, usually touching on other things — her day job, animals, her new Vegan diet, jokes, my business and a variety of other things. With all the pain she obviously felt she nevertheless always went out of her way to express her concern for me and my stuff, never asking me for anything and rarely accepting even when I offered. As time went by I was very happy to be a sounding board for her. Intelligent, articulate and sensitive, her thoughts assured the conversations were never boring nor meaningless; in retrospect they were only too few. I was so proud of her efforts to push through the darkness and my dismay has only continued to grow since I learned she could no longer face it.I wish I could have done more. An e-mail thanking me for one particular visit from my elderly and dying dog she knew well will remain with me as one of my most cherished things. As always, whatever little I gave was repaid a hundred times, often with just a few words.Her talent was not known to the wide audience it should have been and her heart was only known to those closest to her. I am relieved that I do not feel anger that she is gone and I hope that in some way letting people know about her now has some eternal coattails.Craig
Oracle Christmas Party
old young admirer
Sun Feb 12, 2006 1:04 pm
You are right about you two. I saw you girls running around and having a real good time together. I was at the Oracle party at the Fairmont the first time I saw Vala sing…I was blown away. Then she came off stage and you joined her and sang “Midnight Hour” at the karoke stage. You two were great together and so nice to us tech types. I gave you my card and you called me to let me know when Vala sang again. What a great show I saw and I became a “Blues Hound”. But you had to search far for the caliber of singer she was. I will always think of Vala when I hear any blues. And you too by the way! Hope to see you at JJ’s. Tom G
missing vala
Wed Feb 01, 2006 8:13 pm
Well, it is a few days after Val’s bday (which in all honesty, I spent getting stinky drunk and crying), and I don’t miss her any less. I am sure it will be a long time before that ever happens. It has taken me two months to post anything on this site. When I first met Vala, I had come to Austin to check things out..Vala was the second person I met here and she welcomed me with open arms, open heart and open house. We have been dear and close friends ever since. And I use the present tense purposfully…Vala will always be a part of my life. I have so many memories, I could not even begin to share them for where to start. I miss her. I miss singing with her, just being with her and drinking way too much wine and doing bizarre and hilarious things…like drunk-nastics with Sonja and things involving puple poster paint and body parts (this is where I say no more). There are days when I reach for the phone to tell her something funny, and catch myself…knowing there will be no answer on the other end. I wish I had something to say that sounded as eloquent as Vala deserved…but all I can say is miss my friend. Very much. And will for a long time to come. But what I do know is that she gave me something I could never replace and don’t want to..a true friendship. Wherever you are, my friend, I hope you are at peace, that you are with John Lee once again, and that you know how much I love you.
And you are still in my phone you would say “under V, for vocalist”. And V for Vala.
I love you girlfriend.
Love you!!!!!!
Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:07 am
Happy birthday Vala!!!!!! Love and miss you very, very much!!!!
happy birthday vala
Mon Jan 30, 2006 11:36 am
i just wanted to say happy birthday vala.hope you are at peace.
More memories of Vala
Rick Cupp
Fri Jan 13, 2006 12:27 am
I am one of Vala’s five cousins on the Cupp side of the family. It has been great reading all of these wonderful rembrances of Vala, and I wanted to add a few of my own.I first remember hearing Vala sing in the early 1970’s when our great-grandmother died. She and her sister Nina drove my sister and Debbie and me from Salinas, where our grandmother lived, to the funeral in San Louis Obispo. Debbie and I were around 10 and 12 I think, and Nina and Vala were in their late teens or early 20s. Either Nina or Vala had a VW bug, and Nina and Vala informed my sister and me that because the radio didn’t work they would be providing the entertainment by singing for us. They proceded to serenade us beautifully for the entire long drive — quite a memory. I had never heard anyone sing that well and they were so cool and beautiful — getting that much attention from them made one young boy feel pretty special.

I also saw Vala perform at her father’s (my uncle’s) melodrama theater in San Jose and later Campbell. For years there were pictures of her (and Nina) dressed as classic melodrama heroines and damsels-in-distress on the theatre walls in the theater lobby, and I was always proud that I had such beautiful and talented older cousins.

My parents were seriously ill the past few years, and both passed away last summer. Vala was a wonderful niece to them, frequently sending encouraging and humerous e-mails and always letting them know how much she loved them. When they passed away she offered to give us money to help her Cupp cousins (who mostly live in California) fly to Indiana, where our parents lived, for the funerals. We knew she needed the money and thus with love declined the offer, but the fact that she wanted to help us financially when she was struggling so much herself reflects the genrosity of spirit that so many others have written about in posts here.

Four of the Cupp cousins will be at the memorial in San Jose in February, and we’ll look forward to meeting some of you there. It is truly special to see from this website how many people loved and continue to love her, and how she influenced so many lives for the better.

Rick Cupp

Vala Cupp
Sat Jan 14, 2006 12:29 am
I knew Vala for many years. I met her at the Marti Gras in Redwood City. We talked a few times and soon after had A great relationship. I will miss her dearly. I wish I could have helped her in her depression but in the end she could hav only helped herself I guess. I will never forget her. I last visited her when she turned 50 in Austin. I am glad I had a chance to visit her. She is the one who introduced me to “blues music” and she would say… No Armand , It’s call “Blues”. She was a bit self destructive from time to time but I gues she had her reasons for things. I hated the some of the asshole men that abused her and wished that I could have had the luxury of teaching them a lesson but I can’t explain what was going on in her life.I wish I could have talked to her at the end. I can’t believe all this. I hope I see her again some day. I hope she is with Zeke.I love you always Vala…..
Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:05 am
I met Vala for a short moment when she came to Oregon to move my sister to Texas. Never really knowing how this little bitty woman would have an impact on my life many years later.It’s crazy how the day before my sister asked me to take Vala’a Babies (Booger and Fooey), I had been searching aimlessly for a dog for my daughter. I hate that this amazing person passed and I gained from everyone’s loss, but I wanted all to know that these babies couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me and my daughter. I promise everyone that I will and do, love them the way Vala did.

J & M, Fooey and Booger

Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:43 am
That’s wonderful to know. My family lived next door to Vala and we were watching Fooey and Booger. I love those guys so much. It’s so great to know that they are in a loving family.
Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:54 pm
Jay, I am Gratefull to you and your daughter that you have taken Booger and Fooey.
Bless you.
I adopted Booger for Vala at the Austin Humane Society, I work there as a dog trainer. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you as far as questions about dogs, health things also, I am a vet tech too.
I know that Vala loved them more than anything. I also know that she is happy that you have them…she’s still with us…
I’ll watch this site for a reply,
fooey returns home
Sun Dec 04, 2005 3:49 pm
Not many people know this, but Fooey is from dallas- That’s where me and Vala adopted the dog, at petsmart, actually in the mid-cities.e birthplace… So, fooey is sorta going back to the birthplace…
Vala was a wonderful Hard working Blues Lady.
Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:55 am
I have known Vala since 1985 Me her deacon Jones John Lee Hooker Did show’s with her as early as 1985 . She love the real down home blues . I really admired her for that and she put her heart and soul in her singing. I use to get a kick out of her when she would be back stage warming up.
The world have lost a great blues person And she surely be Missed!.
Memory of Vala Cupp
Peggy Leyva-Conley
Thu Dec 29, 2005 6:49 pm
Vala was such a sweet and caring person. She loved singing and perfoming on stage. She was a positive person which is why so many people had no idea that she was emotionally ill due to Bypolar disorder. Many people have no idea about the illness or the signs.I had only wished, I had known what she was going through to have helped her. Recently I looked back at some of my Photo Albums of Vala Cupp and I with Ledgendary Charlie Musslewhite at a show at Villa Montalvo. Vala Cupp was given a God given Talent and was a Blessing to many of us in this life.

I recall doing a Blues Review on her CD Release with Mike Osborn for the Delta Snake Blues Magazine in which I was an Editor/Columnist for Publisher, Al Handa.

I have known Vala Cupp before then for many years from my close and longtime family friends; John Lee Hooker Sr. and his family while they had a home in San Carlos Hills as well as Redwood City for over 20 something years.

There was a large group of us close to each other. Many people parted their own ways when John Lee Hooker SR. died. Many people moved away. There was other losses such as Kenny Baker as well within the group.

Everyone was close the music was great. Those who passed on will always be remembered and missed. May they all be in Peace and in a better place.

May the good Lord help Vala Cupp’s family during this hardtime to bring comfort and peace.


Peggy Leyva-Conley
Hollister, California

vala and christmas
Fri Dec 23, 2005 7:16 pm
man things are definitly different without vala.I keep wanting to pick up the phone or email her just to check in or for some advise.lord knows i stop by this page everyday just to read any comments.It has taken me a long time just to write this.i have a big picture of vala next to our xmas tree along with my father who passed away this year.I know shes in a better place but still its so hard to get over.the memorial was beutiful and it was nice to meet some of her other freinds i hope that we all keep in touch as we had such an person in common.tony saracene
Our Advancing Mortality
Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:18 am
Hey Tony, This is Donald Montgomery. From the BluesKnights and your studio on Red River.
We lose more super talent everyday. Biscuit, Boyd, even Summerdog and Jak Akers in an earlier day… I saw the news in the AusChron; What a sad moment. I was just looking at her autographed CD she gave me just recently and I am gonna put it on, set to repeat, and think about this crazy, fuzzy, foolish world we live in.
God bless us, every one.
Peace for Vala
Sun Dec 25, 2005 7:20 pm
I meet Vala in 1982 when I went to work for Quantum. She was organizing a team for the Silicon Valley Corporate Cup Competion. Vala was quite the runner back in those days. She talked me in to joing the team and we became friends. We had a lot in common, we were bother married to the wrong men and we were the same age. I have so many memories of Vala from great camping trips to watching her babysit my daughter by playing her guitar and singing to her. I remember the first time I hear her sing. I was at work and she blew me away. We had great comversations and some very disturbing conversation. Vala was not only a wonderful singer but also a wonderful artist, I don’t know if people knew that about her. I did not understand why someone so talented and sweet could be so sad until my daughter was diagnosed with Bi-Polar. It is so painful to see someone you care about in so much in pain. When Vala moved away from the Bay Area I tried to keep in contact with her. I use to call just to hear her answer machine to see if she was still alive. I remember her telling me how she was going to kill her self in detail after a concert in Santa Cruz. I spent the entire night telling her how sad every one would feel is she was gone but she just did not get it. Now I know why. It hurts to lose a friend but it really hurts when your friend is in so much pain and you can not do anything about it. I know that she is at peace from that pain. Thanks for being part of my life and memories, ValaLove Always
Katherine Holiday
Austin doesn’t feel the same without you
Greg Rhodes
Sun Dec 11, 2005 6:13 am
If love would die along with death this life wouldn’t be so hard.
-Andrew VachssOn October 31st, 2005, Vala left this junkyard of a planet to work a better room.* The music community lost a talented singer and those of us fortunate enough to have known her lost a dear friend.I met Vala back in November of 1999, the day before Thanksgiving in a place called the Filling Station at Ted Hall’s Wednesday night blues jam. Initially, she was just some red head sitting at the bar, then she proceeded to get on stage and sing her ass off. She did [i]Standing On Shaky Ground[/i], a Janis Joplin tune (I think) and I forget what else. At the time I had been in Austin for less than a month and I remember thinking, before her first song was over, that I had moved to the right place. When she was done I was getting called to the stage, as she took her seat I said something along the lines of “Wow, that was excellent!” or what have you.As I made my way to the stage I was thinking “Damn! I’ve got to follow that! Well, just don’t sing and you’ll be fine.” So I got up and did two or three songs and as I recall nobody else sang either! When I got down and took my seat she said “Way to go, you really kicked ass!” Coming from her that was huge.I asked her where else I could see her perform, she said that she was in the process of putting a band together and gave me her card. I think I still have it somewhere.We met as musicians but in a fairly short amount of time, became good friends. If I went out of town for more than day or so, she had a key to my apartment and would take care of my cat for a week at a time–if need be.We would trade books and CDs regularly. As “recovering” Catholics (lol!) we both held the irreverent in very high regard. So, one year for her birthday I gave her a copy of [i]The Book Of The Sub Genius[/i]–which is a brilliant parody of religious cults and fly-by-night self-help scams etc. The card I picked out for her featured a quote from Oscar Wilde that goes “We are all in the gutter. Some of us are looking at the stars.” She liked it so much, she pinned it to the wall in her apartment.I honestly can’t say that I’ve known a kinder more generous person since I moved to Austin. She really was a dear friend to me. I think about her everyday and miss her terribly. The absence of her light, love and laughter has left a gaping hole in my life. I hope she knew how much she meant to me, because I feel like I never had the chance to tell her.

Driving around South Austin I see something that reminds me of her just about everywhere I look–especially South Lamar BLVD. I drive past The Filling Station–where we first met–and I want to go inside and have a beer–even though it’s no longer in business and I’ve been sober for over two years. But when I pass Art’s Rib House–which she loved–I’m not sure I ever want to set foot inside again. Now she’s gone and I wish I was anyplace other than here.

So long, Vala. I miss you. Sorry we never got to say good bye.

Sun Dec 11, 2005 12:08 pm
Spoken like a romantic – you will know us because we’re “looking at the stars”.
Wed Dec 14, 2005 7:56 pm
I knew Vala in the early 90’s. I was her biggest fan, she amazed me. I am saddened of her passing and hope with all my heart that she has found the peace she was searching for, even way back then.
Vala is not gone
Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:00 pm
I have only learned of Vala’s passing a couple of hours ago! ] am a loving aunt of Vala, who brought pleasure to my life from the day she was born. I only learned about her talent of entertaining, performing, and loving from my infrequent visits to California from my home in Minnesota (her mother’s native birthplace). She was a charmer who could read your mind and your heart. Years later, after moving fom CA to TX I conversed more frequently with her via email, and she was a constant source of support and “feel good” news. Her little family of Booger, Fooey and Sybil were paramount in her concerns. We (my sweetheart of 35 years, Jim, and I) were fortunate to watch her perform here at the renowned Guthrie Theater with the blues legend John Lee Hooker whom she introduced us to. Later I was privileged to see her perform at the Target Center in Minneapolis with John Lee Hooker again. Her talent was fascinating. I feel so cheated in not sharing in her physical life because of distance and feel I have lost a friend who was absolutely in tandem with my way of looking at life. As strange as it seems, she will always be with me in spirit and I can just hear her smart and sage comments, although they’re not as good as reading them frequently almost daily. I keep thinking a very simple [b]”It’s not fair!”[/b] through all this rhetoric, and am happy to see that some of you have experienced the love and connection with her sister, Antonina ( Nina), and her mother, Violet.
Vala’s passing
Tue Nov 29, 2005 10:57 pm
I never met you but had heard of you through Vala. I knew her from before her blues days (late 70s) so my take is probably quite different from a lot of those posted here. She was a truly wonderful person to be with and I still can’t believe she’d lost the will to go on. I will always hear her singing “Hit the Road, Jack!” or “Lush Life.”
I hope this finds you well .
Mon Dec 05, 2005 7:54 am
Dear Roz
Vala so loved you. I’m Maryellen in Austin–we’ve never met —Vala mentioned me in some of the emails she sent to you–although it’s probably been awhile–Vala emailed me that adorable picture of you in your swimsuit on the chaise lounge. I feel like you do–Vala saw things so in tandem with the way I feel about life too– what a big heart Vala had. Always willing to lend a sympathetic ear and a heartfelt piece of advice or clever witicism. I went to her memorial service Saturday, Dec. 3rd with my husband–Ron–he is the drummer with the John Gaar band–Vala sang with them. It was beautiful – it felt like a small “Woodstock” –very loving. It was in the woods on her landlord’s property with a makeshift altar with pictures of Vala, a laughing Buda, candles, orange and lime green paper flowers (Vala’s favorite colors), real flowers, beads, incense–the whole bit. There was a good size stage in front of a creek bed with small bleachers and lawn chairs all around. We all brought food. There was a slide show on a laptop computer that was projected onto a big canvas. Some folks sang– others told their stories of Vala. Vala would have simply loved it. We felt that Vala was there–spreading her fairy dust around and laughing. Cosmic love to you Roz,
Maryellen Sherrod in Austin, Texas
memorial service
Sat Dec 03, 2005 1:37 pm
For those of us not in Austin, What was the memorial service like?
Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:42 pm
The memorial was beautiful. Candles lit the way thru the woods to a small stage where all of her friends played music and sang. There was a guest book placed on a small table with a beautiful picture of Vala, candles and guest cards for anyone who wanted them with her picture on it. The memorial was on her friend/landlords land, it was in a small patch of woods in S. Austin. There was incense burning, candles all around, and some smart person put together a slide show of her and all her friends. I know if Vala was with us and went to this place for someone else she would have loved it.
My Friend Vala
Thu Dec 01, 2005 8:44 pm
Hello Vala and your fiery red hair and your sly beautiful smile. A voice that carries and a soul that will speak to all of us. I met you through John Lee and the wonderful years I spent with him. Can you remember when you got after me for losing my expensive eyeware at JOhn Lee’s house in Redwood City? And Vala don’t ever forget the dinner in Sealtle……..or the time in Golden Gate Park when we listened to JOhn Prine singing Angel from Montgomery, and let us not forget when that damn cute dog Ginger wrapped herself around your legs in San Louis Osbispo. It’s hard to put into words Vala about you, just as it’s it’s always hard to think about John Lee not with us on this earthly planet. He loved you so much, You are with the Boogie Man now. And now you can sing the Blues the best of them all. From where I’m sitting my sister you are going to be busy………….. My thoughts will be always be with you
Your beautiful soul will carry on for and for always, Your friend in spirit
Wed Nov 23, 2005 8:54 am
I was heartbroken to hear this. I have always had so much respect for Vala’s talent, and enjoyed her so much as a person and fellow musician. My thoughts and prayers are with Vala and all of you who are mourning.Nancy Wright
Fri Nov 25, 2005 10:48 pm
I remember seeing you two girls party and sing together. You girls were the prettiest ladies in the club and everybody was buying you drinks. Vala was wasted and you were still standing and kind of level headed. Some guys started to move in on you girls but you got you both a cab and you were not in the mood for those guys. But you two kept on singing and waiting for the cab there was a group around you digin the sounds until the cab picked you up. I know that if you didn’t take that cab home you girls were in for trouble. I was sad to hear about Vala. It was always a good tip night for us when she sang at the club (Route 66). She was a great singer and most of all nice to everyone. I know you two were good friends and you could see how you looked out for Vala…God Bless her and you too.
not willing to give up our great time
Valerie Hannusch
Wed Nov 23, 2005 10:19 am
Vala Cupp was one of a kind, she had a strong desire for fun and a wonderful ability to search it out. I recall a party we both attended at a neighbors home, Sonya and Vola were leaning on the back of a vehicle, drinks in hand. The energy the two of them produced promised to be a good time, so as soon as I could I joined them. From that moment on three of us were inseperable. I have a couple of child sized Harleys in my back yard that served as the perfect outlet for all the fun we had itching to get out. We decided to go play. We took turns 2 on 1and 1 on the other using my yard as a race track. The motorcycles are not made to support the weight of adults so the batteries wore out all to soon; not willing to give up our great time 2 of us would ride while the third pushed from behind. This, the first night I met Vala Cupp was one of the best times of my adult years
Her smile, her laugh, and her warm, accepting, lighthearted personality made a ray of sunshine not enough people were exposed to. They will be sorely missed, but will live on in my memories.
In memory of Vala
Tue Nov 22, 2005 6:59 pm
I first met Vala Cupp on one of the most memorable days of my life…the day I met Mr John Lee Hooker. She opened the hotel door drying her hair and said ‘Hi I’m Vala Cupp,,,please come in’. There began a wonderful friendship with John that lastedtwelve years over which time I saw Vala on many occasions…either on stage with him or at his homes in Redwood City and then Los Altos Hills where my daughter Xaviera (Bubbles) and I stayed for quite some time. …as Johns guests.I remember the last conversation I had with her at one of Johns performances at Santa Cruz where she sang so amazingly and I wish that she could still be with us today…..and offer our thoughts to her family and friends…may she rest in Peace…with John Lee to watch over her.
My Friend Vala
Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:34 pm
I met Vala in Feburary 1987 at a company talent show. The woman brought down the house. Soon after I found myself spending Friday nights in Palo Alto watching her perform with the King Bees (aka Coast to Coast Blues Band). She knew my favorite song was 30 Days in Jail, and night after night she’d dedicate it to me. She inspired me to pursue a stand up career, and even allowed me to MC one of her gigs in SF in support of her album. It was one of the greatest nights of my life. Performing in front of a crowd, introducing my friend Vala, and most of all, hanging around backstage with Vala, the band and special guests. Despite my lack of talent, she included me in that club, made me feel like a part of things, made me feel like I mattered. That was part of her gift. I hope that my admiration and support for her made her feel the same. I kept in touch sporadically over the years, she was really touched when I told her about how my little toddler went to slept at night listening to her CD. May God bless Vala Cupp, rest in peace my friend.
Mon Nov 21, 2005 9:25 am
Having had the pleasure of working with Vala in both the business world and in music I’m glad to have known the strong spirit that revealed itself when this bluesy girl opened her mouth to sing. I can remember the first time I saw her perform at a Blues Festival in Santa Cruz…and me picking myself up off the ground, spilling my beer, and being awestruck at my co-workers incredible voice. Being a vocalist myself it was right then that I realized that singing meant more than just hitting a note…rather it means bearing your soul and opening your heart…laying it out and letting the world find common ground in a pool of blended emotions and the senses of lost souls looking for answers. This was Vala…and even though I’d been singing all my life…it somehow all connected at that moment and I found that sense of purpose in what I was doing vocally after all those starving musician years.Knowing that bipolar disorder can take you on a ride with unknown destinations…music is an excellent vehicle to strap in while going on that rollar coaster. Perhaps that’s why she found that niche in blues. My only regret is that I couldn’t be there to put the seat belt there to prevent any fallouts. I can say though that there is an organization that shows promise. For those with “Bipolar” I would highly recommend that you check out NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). It is the nation’s largest grass roots organization dedicated to improving lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families throught advocacy, research, support and education. It can be found at [url][/url] and there are local chapters across the country.

I know that Vala is now at peace and her place will be one of those beautiful voices that will continue to capture all of us empathetic souls in the kingdom yet to come….PEACE

In Memoriam
Sun Nov 20, 2005 11:49 am
This article was in the San Jose Mercury News this morning: (Note: That Mercury News link has expired; a version of that story can be found at she was living in California I had the pleasure of meeting her. She would come to our home once in a while and sing with my husband and his friends in a little gargage band that they had.

She had the most amazing voice. I loved her blue dog tatoo! Peace sweet girl and I hope you are singing with the angels

my brief encounter
Pam Nelson
Sun Nov 20, 2005 6:10 am
I will never forget my one visit to see Vala perform at the Target Center. I went with my great friend, Roz, Vala’s Aunt. We had so much fun going back stage and greeting her before the concert. She was so full of life and uninhibited. I felt really honored to be back stage with her. I know how much Vala has meant to her Aunt Roz and have read some of Vala’s messages to Roz that she has forwarded via e-mail. I always enjoyed her perception on life and know she will be greatly missed by those who loved her much.Pam Nelson
Dr Tom Mazur
Sun Nov 20, 2005 4:15 am
Posted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 4:15 am Post subject: VALA CUPP It is with great sadness when I heard of the passing of my dear cousin. I haven’t seen her for many years and was searching for her. She was a beautiful person and I will miss her much, Dr Tom Mazur
Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:56 am
Vala will be deeply missed around her home in Austin, seeing Vala on her porch or in the yard singing the blues with her uplifting smile or just chatting to her about life views or just knowing Vala was right there and life would be ok. My heart and thoughts go out to Vala’s Dear Sweet Mom & Sister Nina they have been wonderful people, seeing Nina’s courage and getting warm hugs from Vala’s mom have been nice in this time of deep sadness. I recieved some memories from Vala’s Mom and sister Nina and I’am greatful. Vala is truely a angel, and shall never be forgotten. Leonie

Memorial celebrations for Vala

JJ’s Blues makes donation in memory of Vala Cupp
Dr Gone
Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:27 pm
On November 2, 2006, Johnnie Perkins of JJ’s Blues in San Jose donated $785 to MUSICARES in memory of Vala Cupp.That money was a portion of what JJ’s took in during the Feb. 26, 2006, celebration of Vala’s life and music.

At that event Coco Montoya, Michael Osborn, Andy Just, Lisa Cupp, Sam Varela, Guitar Gypsy, Archie Lee Hooker and many other musicians performed in Vala’s memory.

It was a big party for friends and family, and we all had a pretty darn good time, although we were all aching in the heart by Vala’s passing.

If you would like to donate to MUSICARES in Vala’s memory, go to

Thanks to Johnnie Perkins and to JJ’s for letting us celebrate Vala, and for making the donation in her memory.


The Feb. 26 celebration for Vala at JJ’s
Dr Gone
Tue Feb 28, 2006 1:30 am
Sunday night at JJ’s in San Jose, as the last musicians who performed in memory of Vala Cupp were packing up their gear, Archie Hooker was stomping on the floor and waving his arms and talking about how the day had been the greatest blues event to happen in San Jose for years.And while it had not previously occurred to me to think of it that way — after all, we there out of love for Vala — I think he may have been right.

By my count — which probably misses some people, and for that I apologize and will try to correct the list when I can — 36 musicians performed in Vala’s memory, and in front of many members of Vala’s family, including her mom, Vi, who is a sweetie, her little sister Lisa, also a sweetie, and her sister Nina, also a sweetie, who helped organize everything.

And while there have been other, larger outdoor blues events, such as the Fountain Blues Festival, it’s hard to imagine more love squashed into one place than at tiny little JJ’s on Sunday.

And you know, the musicianship was often stunning. Vala was one the greatest blues singers of her generation, and she was friends with a lot of fabulous players. And everybody just seemed to bring the very best they could bring on Sunday, in memory of their departed friend. I’m telling you, the walls blew out.

JJ’s recorded some of the performances, and they have been posted at Also, some photographs.

In the meantime, I’d just like to say thanks to all the musicians, whom I wll try to list, and to Vala’s family — whom I will not try to list, for fear that I would get names wrong. I met a LOT of people on Sunday night, but only kept notes about the musicians who performed.

Vala was a wonderful woman, and her family helped make her such a loving and warm-hearted person. Being friends with her was one of the great happinesses of my life. Her passing is one of the great sadnesses.

Musicians who performed

Bob Boehm
Bowen Brown
Bundy Browne
Lisa Cupp
Danny D
Dennis Dove
Paul Durkett
Ron Estrada
John Gaar
Dr Gone (aka John Orr)
Guitar Gypsy
Dennis Harper
Steve Hazlewood
Archie Lee Hooker
Tony Johnson
Andy Just
Brad Kava
Kurt Kieffer
Aki Kumar
Robert Lacy-Thompson
Tony Lacy-Thompson
Dave Lewis
Charles Lyons
Coco Montoya
Michael Osborn
Melinda Rios Foley
Sugar G Robinson
Quenston Staten
Russ St. John
Sheila Thomas
Jerome Tinsley
Sneaky Pete
Brian Vann
Sammy Varela
Nancy Wright

Thanks again, to all. If I missed or misspelled a name, please send me a note at and I will fix the list if I can.

And, also, many thanks to Johnnie Perkins and the rest of the folks at JJ’s for helping us celebrate Vala.

And I have to point out that there were many other musicians on hand who didn’t get to perform. We tried to get as many up on the little stage as we could, for at least one tune each, but just couldn’t get them all up there, not even in our eight hours. But thank you so much for being there.


Vala’s Memorial – Austin
Sun Nov 20, 2005 12:52 pm
In loving memory of Vala D. CuppJanuary 30, 1954 – October 31, 2005

Dear friend, artist and musician

Memoriam held Saturday Dec. 3, 2005 2pm

1404 W. Oltorf, Austin, TX 78704

About this guestbook

This message board has been locked …
Dr Gone
Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:23 pm
… which means we can’t post in here anymore, I am sad to say.We’ve been bombarded by spam posts, and I don’t have time to keep going in and removing them several times a day, which is what I’ve been doing.

My best wishes to all of Vala’s friends and family who have shared their thoughts here, and I pray for us all and for Vala.


Loving you and thinking of you always.
Mon Oct 09, 2006 8:16 am
As I sit here on my porch and look around I can feel your spirit here. I miss you alot and I’m always thinking of you, your mom and sister Nina gave me a guitar of yours that you use to play when you where younger I guard it with my life. I’m having a hard time getting over the fact that your gone but then you come down and remind me that you never wanted me to be sad so then I pull myself togethie,r I know that is what you would want, but it just seems hard to do at times. I play your tape from time to time and share it with people that come by to visit. I’m still here living next door to your place and I still pick chile peppers off your chile pepper tree. Your cactus is doing fine Tony she is taking care of them. I have massive love for you, words just can’t explain.
still thinking about you
Mon Apr 24, 2006 4:58 pm
Still thinking about you, you touched my life in so many ways. the anniversary of my accident is comming and everytime I listen to Janis I think of you at the trauma center with Little Girl Boy Blue playing in my ear, trying to get me to wake up. Something is different in the world now, and I really can’t put my finger on it. It is some intangible thing… I see the photos of John Lee and Big Brother that hang in my apartment and I think about our visit to the I Beam and Bumpershoot too. I just think about you and when I listen to music I think about how you shaped everything I hear today… I wonder if you see Dave? Just thinking about you and wish I could have been there for you.
our Vala
Fri Nov 25, 2005 7:20 pm
I can’t believe our dear Vala is not here. Somehow the world was safe and good with her in it. Vala and I met around 5 years ago. She and my husband Head where in the band Poon together. We had a lot in common with our love of animals. I found Booger for her at Austin Humane Society, they an instant conection, and it made me so happy to make them so happy! I know that Fooey and Booger are in a new and happy home. Jay…please contact me if you need anything with them. My heart is broken…but I know she’s still singing….