DELLA REESE (By Phil Davies)

Born Delloreese Patricia Early, 6 July 1931, Detroit, Michigan

Della began singing in the Baptist church choir in her hometown of Detroit at age six. In 1945, having developed quite rapidly, she caught the ear of legendary gospel queen Mahalia Jackson, who invited Reese to join her touring choir; Reese did so for the next five summers. Upon entering Wayne State University to study psychology, Reese formed a women's gospel group, the Meditation Singers, but her college career was cut short by the death of her mother and her father's serious illness. Reese worked odd jobs to help support the rest of her family; she also continued to perform with the Meditation Singers and various other gospel groups. Encouraged by her pastor, Reese began singing in nightclubs in hopes of getting a singing career off the ground; she was greatly influenced by the smooth stylings of Dinah Washington. After impressing a New York agent, who promptly signed her, Reese moved to New York and joined The Erskine Hawkins Orch in 1953. A year later, she had a recordin g contract with Jubilee, for whom she scored hits like "And That Reminds Me," a 1957 million-seller, staying 13 weeks in the top 40. Westside and Collectables have cds with her 50s sides for Jubilee.

Switching to RCA Victor, Reese landed her biggest hit in 1959 with "Don't You Know?," a song adapted from Pucinni's La Boheme; this reached numero uno in the R & B charts, followed into the top 20 by Not One Minute More in 1960. Don't You Know also reached number 2 in the Hot 100 in November 59 (15 weeks in the top 40), only Darin's epic take on Mack The Knife keeping her from the top spot. Only Fats' Be My Guest and Ernie Fields revival of In The Mood had any real top 10 rocking quotient that week. Ballads and pop were in, the big beat was waning (how could you dance to Wink's Deck Of Cards??) Not One Minute More reached 16 in the pop charts

These hits cemented her career, leading not only to plentiful appearances on variety shows, but successful nightclub tours of the country and eventually nine years of performances in Las Vegas, as well as recording contracts with a variety of labels over the next few decades. Renowned as both a television star and a top-flight interpreter of jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, and straight-ahead pop music, Della Reese's many talents have ensured a long, varied, and legendary showbiz career. In addition to being nominated for both an Emmy and a Grammy and receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Reese is also an ordained minister in the Universal Foundation for Better Living, an association of churches she helped found in the early 1980s.

She appeared regularly on US tv shows like the Mod Squad and The Tonight Show. On October 3, 1980, while taping a song for the latter, Reese suffered a brain aneurysm, which nearly proved fatal; however, thanks to a successful operation, she was able to make a full recovery. She kept up her singing career and appeared on television shows LA Law and Picket Fences, as well as the Eddie Murphy films Harlem Nights and The Distinquished Gentleman.

Recommended Listening:

Jubilee Years Singles 54-59 -Westside

Story Of The Blues/A Date With - Westside

Collectables also have Jubilee 2fers

Classic Della -BMG/RCA, her biggest hit and a lot of standards

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

-- Return to "This Is My Story" Index --