Gaye Todd was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She graduated as valedictorian of the then-segregated Walker-Grant High School. She finished Boston University with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked as a technical writer for TRW Systems, a biochemical researcher at Rockefeller University, and a bacteriologist at Harlem Hospital. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Media (with a concentration in photography) from Virginia State University.
In the early ’70s, she began her teaching career. She was an educator in the Fredericksburg City Public School system for 18 years, and honored as Virginia State Teacher of the Year in 1982. Throughout her teaching career, she directed Harambee 360º Experimental Theater. She was able to creatively use performance as a tool to assist black youth in gaining confidence as they struggled with identity issues during the spread of “integration.”
During her teaching career, Ms. Adegbalola moonlighted as a musician. By maintaining the blues legacy, she now sees herself as a contemporary griot – keeping the history alive, delivering messages of empowerment, ministering to the heartbroken, and finding joy in the mundane. As a founding member of Saffire – the Uppity Blues Women, she became a full-time performer. (Saffire ended in November, 2009, after making music together for 25 years.)
She has toured nationally and internationally, and has won numerous awards including the prestigious Blues Music Award (formerly the W.C. Handy Award – the Grammy of the blues industry). Also of importance, in 2011 Gaye was named an OUTstanding Virginian by Equality Virginia for championing GLBT equality. Further, in 2012, she received the Parents’ Choice Gold Award for Music for her children’s CD, “Blues in All Flavors”. As of 2015, Adegbalola has 16 CDs in national distribution, including 5 on her own label, Hot Toddy Music. Gaye composes, sings and plays acoustic guitar, slide guitar, and harmonica.
Here’s what reviewers are saying about Is It Still Good To Ya?:
Gaye Adegbalola was a part of Saffire — The Uppity Blues Women for a quarter century (1984 – 2009). She may have left that group behind but her songwriting skills, sassiness, and edge have carried over to her newest incarnation. . . It is not a do-wop group but a gritty blues outfit with Adegbalola’s voice out front. It is a combination of smooth harmonies meeting raw lead vocals. . . . Is It Still Good to Ya? is an album that approaches the blues from a different perspective. More authentic than slick, it is a different mix that is worth exploring.
– David Bowling, Cash Box Reviews
These women make it clear that the human voice is one of the most beautiful and powerful instruments in an artist’s arsenal . . . Is It Still Good to Ya? is precisely what I imagine when I think of a band of Angels coming after me and what that would sound like. This is one of the finest pieces of work I have heard in quite some time. Gaye Adegbalola & The Wild Rutz have breathed new life into an old style and made it sound fresh and exciting. This is powerful, passionate and timeless, the kind of thing you will find yourself listening to repeatedly.
– Bill Wilson, Billtown Blue Notes
Saffire alumna Ms. Adegbalola here recasts the charm and chutzpah of that celebrated sisterhood in a highly appealing mix of roots and sophistication. Earthy percussion and roots-based backup choruses, that at times take very tasty harmonic turns, are key components of one of this young year’s freshest sounding releases.
– Duane Verh, Roots Music Reports
You very rarely come across a blues release with this caliber of vocal precision, writing quality and artistry. Gaye Adegbalola & The Wild Rutz’s latest release Is It Still Good To Ya? is just great listening.
– Brian “The Bluesman” Beachum, Natchel’ Blues Network