About Donna Herula
Donna Herula is a Chicago-born blues singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist that has a passion for playing traditional Delta and Country Blues, early Chicago Blues, folk, Americana, and roots music. Using electrified resonator guitars, her sound combines her love for the music of the Deep South and Chicago with her love of blues guitar improvisation. Her songwriting tips the hat to the tradition while creating a fresh, contemporary perspective on blues and roots music.
Donna was born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago, in the Portage Park neighborhood. She began playing piano and writing songs at the age of 5 and guitar at the age of 10. In high school, she wrote an original song, “Mid-Term Blues,” that she arranged for her high school jazz band and performed at her high school variety show. She also played lead guitar in an all-girls band, No Men Momentum. Donna received a music scholarship from her high school and studied voice, jazz guitar and, later, classical guitar in college.
Donna was inspired to learn slide guitar after attending a live performance by electric blues resonator player, Eric Sardinas, and upon hearing the song, “Death Letter Blues,” by Son House. She has been inspired by other slide guitarists including Rory Block, Johnny Winter, Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Booker White, Furry Lewis, RL Burnside, Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, Honeyboy Edwards, Tamp Red, and Johnny Shines.
Donna was also influenced by women blues singers and guitar players, such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace, Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bonnie Raitt, and two of her teachers, Maria Muldaur and Rory Block. She also drew inspiration from the songwriting of Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, and Willie Nelson.
Chicago Blues Hall of Fame
Donna was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame on October 16, 2016 at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago.
Donna has been a regular performer at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago since 2012 and has opened for Buddy Guy numerous times, including for his January residencies. She said that she has fun playing at Legends as well as watching other artists perform there, and has appreciated the support and warmth she has received over the years from the Buddy Guy Legend’s family.
Blues Challenge Competition
Donna was the co-winner of the Chicago Blues Challenge, solo/duo category two years in a row; in 2010 with harpist John Jochem and in 2011 with blues singer/songwriter, Liz Mandeville. She competed at the 2011 and 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis as a semi-finalist and had a great experience there. Donna also won the 2008 Illinois Central Blues Clubs blues challenge as a solo performer and competed at the 2009 IBCs, where she met the producer (Jon Shain) and sound engineer (FJ Ventre) of her 2021 release, Bang at the Door.
In 2012, Donna was a semifinalist in the Yamaha Six String Theory international guitar competition. She placed in the top 6 of the blues guitarist category among contestants from 58 countries.