Damita Jo: I'll
Be There ©2000JCMarion
A new dynamic song stylist named Damita Jo (Damita Jo DuBlanc) was helped a great deal early in her career by pioneer Black disc jockey Joe Adams in Los Angeles in 1949. After a two month appearance at the Club Oasis in L.A., she was signed to the independent label Discovery Records which was attempting to build its R & B base. The label put Joe Adams in charge of its R & B operations and one of the first moves he made was to bring Damita Jo to Discovery. While touring the West coast in the spring of 1950, she makes her first recording. That summer found her back at the Oasis with Count Basie and his new small group, a sextet that featured Wardell Gray and Buddy DeFranco on saxes. Damita Jo joins the Count and Sugar Chile Robinson at the Orpheum Theater. Discovery #523 - "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" and a cover of Laurie Tate's R & B hit "Anytime. Anyplace, Anywhere" is on the street in late August. In October Damita Jo does a well received turn at L.A.'s Downbeat Club. The next year brings little recording as Discovery Records soon goes out of business and Damita Jo looks for a new label as she continues to do appearances on the West coast. The Recorded In Hollywood label gives her a turn with "How Can I Live" on #180 during the summer of 1951.
In April of 1952, Recorded In Hollywood Records releases "You Took My Heart" from an earlier session. The record disappears almost immediately. Damita Jo joins up with Steve Gibson & The Red Caps for a two week stay at New Jersey's Riviera Club. In May she records with the band on a cover of Bette McLaurin's "I May Hate Myself In The Morning" for RCA Victor. The label then pairs Damita Jo with tenor saxist and blues shouter Big John Greer on #20-4685 on "Lonesome And Blue". She rejoins the Red Caps for an extended stay for the summer in Wildwood, New Jersey, at the Club Martinique. She is now a permanent part of the Steve Gibson combo, and more a part of Steve Gibson's life as she becomes his wife. In May the whole aggregation does a turn at the Riviera in Las Vegas. Toward the end of the year Damita Jo leaves the Red Caps group and signs a recording contract as a solo artist with Columbia Records, but nothing in the line of success ever becomes of the agreement. Because of the changing demographics, they are now classified as a lounge act and play adult nightclubs, supper clubs, and the casino rooms of Las Vegas where they remain a popular act.
Damita Jo returned to the Red Caps in the later fifties recording for the Hunt label. The sound of the veteran group now twenty years in the business was not what the record buying public (mainly teenagers) was looking for. As the group broke up for good in the early sixties, Damita Jo once again went out on her own as a solo performer. This time there was some success for her efforts. She was rewarded with two solid pop hits in the early sixties. The first was an answer record to the Drifters big smash "Save The Last Dance For Me". Damita Jo's answer was released on Mercury Records #71698 and called (naturally) "I'll Save The Last Dance For You". It was one of the most successful answer records ever, getting into the top twenty and spending more than two months on the best seller charts. Six months later in mid 1961, she did even better with the song "I'll Be There" for Mercury #71840, which narrowly missed getting into the top ten best sellers,and was a solid two month charter. She never attained those heights on the charts again, but remained a solid song stylist and popular in person attraction for many years.
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