The Once And Always Queen : Dinah Washington©2004JCMarion


Ruth Lee Jones was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in August of 1924 to Ollie and Alice Williams Jones. By 1928 she had moved with her family to Chicago. As a teenager Jones had learned piano from her mother who played mostly for the choir at St. Luke’s Baptist Church. The gospel music of the Black church had the interest of the teenaged girl, and by 1939 she had joined gospel music great Roberta Martin as an pianist and background singer. However the call of the secular world of popular entertainment was a strong lure, and in 1940 Jones entered a talent show held at the Regal Theater in Chicago. She won first prize of course, and soon she was off on her road to acceptance and stardom. Jones played a number of neighborhood clubs, and one of these was called The Garrick Bar. It was here that she was heard by talent scout and manager Joe Glaser who was duly impressed by the young singer. On his recommendation she joined the band of Lionel Hampton in 1943. It was then that she was given the professional name of Dinah Washington. Who gave her that name is open to conjecture – Glaser, Hampton, and the boss of Garrick’s all claim that distinction. Whatever the truth, Washington made an immediate impact and her tenure with the band lasted for three years. During this time she made her first recording for the Keynote label. The sessions were arranged by jazz critic and enthusiast Leonard Feather. Washington was accompanied by members of the Lionel Hampton band. "Evil Gal Blues" and "Homeward Bound" on Keynote # 605 was followed by "Salty Papa Blues" and "I Know How To Do It" on # 606. Both records were good sellers in the growing popularity of Rhythm & Blues music.

By 1946, she was well enough along in her career that she went out on her own as a solo performer. Washington soon signed with Mercury Records under her own name and began producing good sellers. She was a hard voice to pin down, with her style equally at home with jazz, blues, pop, and the raucous sound of Rhythm & Blues. Her first session for Mercury took place in January of 1946 with Gus Chappelle's Orchestra. "When A Woman Loves A Man" and "Ooh Wee Walkie Talkie" (from a later session with Gerald Wilson) was released by Mercury on # 8010. "Embraceable You" and "That's Why A Woman Loves A Heel" on # 8030 followed soon after. The next record release had Washington with the Tab Smith band on the tunes "Postman Blues" and "Slick Chick On The Mellow Side" on # 8024. In the spring of the following year Dinah recorded with Chubby Jackson's Orchestra with "Stairway To The Stars" and "I Want To Be Loved" on # 8035. In August of 1947 "Mean And Evil Blues" and "Fool That I Am" recorded with the band of Dave Young was released on # 8050. Dinah Washington recorded her version of Buddy Johnson's song "Since I Fell For You" and "You Can Depend On Me" with the Rudy Martin Trio on # 8057. The same session also produced "There's Got To Be A Change" and "Early In The Morning" on # 8061 and "Laughing Boy" and "You Satisfy" on # 8061. By now the music world was aware of the unique talents of Dinah Washington. She was equally adept at pop standards, blues, jazz, and romantic ballads, and she was in the process of recording a wide range of music. "Don't Come Knocking At My Door" and Dinah's cover version of Bull Moose Jackson's "I Live You Yes I Do" on # 8065 was next, and late in the year "Ain't Misbehaving" and No More Lonely Gal Blues" recorded with the Rudy Martin Trio was released by Mercury on # 8072. This was followed by "Walking And Talking" and "West Side Baby" on # 8079.

Starting out in 1948, Dinah got in the studio with Cootie Williams and his band with Mundell Lowe on guitar for "Resolution Blues" and "I Won't Cry" on # 8082. "Tell Me So" / "In The Rain" with Dave Young's Orchestra on # 8094 and "Am I Asking Too Much" / "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman" on # 8095 then followed. During the summer Dinah had an interesting recording session with Mitch Miller and his orchestra and the recording release for Mercury on the tunes "I'll Wait" and The Orioles R & B hit "It's Too Soon To Know" on # 8107. In October Dinah again recorded with the Cootie Williams Orchestra and resulted in the tunes "It's Funny" and "Why Can't You Behave" on # 8114. In 1949 once again with Mitch Miller, Washington recorded another Orioles R & B hit "I Challenge Your Kiss" and "Am I Really Sorry" on # 8150. Dinah got in the studio with Teddy Stewart's Orchestra for the first of many collaborations. "New York, Chicago, L.A." and "I Only Know" on # 8163, "Journey's End" on # 8169, and closed out 1949.

Dinah was now known as "Queen of the Jukeboxes" having sold more than one million records for the Mercury label. She headlines a show at the Regal Theater in Chicago where more than a decade ago she won a amateur talent contest that launched her career. She appears with The Ravens and Joe Thomas and his band. "Good Daddy Blues" and "Richest Guy In The Graveyard" on # 8184 is released in February. "Big Deal" / "I'll Never Be Free" on # 8187 follows. In March Dinah breaks one of her traditions by agreeing to a Sunday opening at Lou & Alex Club in Washington D.C. In April Washington appears at the Cafe Society in New York's Greenwich Village, and the to that city's Bop City for a great show along with Nat King Cole & Trio, and the Count Basie band. "It Isn't Fair" (a pop hit for Don Cornell) and Journey's End" on # 8169 is released in April. In June Dinah begins her first Los Angeles club engagement at the Oasis Club along with Calvin Boze and Teddy Stewart's Combo. In July Dinah appears with old boss Lionel Hampton and his band at Wrigley Field in L.A. for the annual "Cavalcade Of Jazz". "I Wanna Be Loved" / "Love With Misery" on # 8181, is released and soon "Loved" becomes her biggest seller for Mercury. It is also the subject of a bootlegging scam on the West Coast. "Why Don't You Think Things Over" and "How Deep Is The Ocean" on # 8192 is released in September. Washington marries Walter Buchanan, bassist for Arnett Cobb. She headlines a show in Chicago for McKie Fitzhugh at the Pershing Ballroom. The pop standard "Harbor Lights" is coupled with "I Cross My Fingers" on Mercury # 5488, and "Lights" immediately becomes a good seller. Dinah makes a number of personal appearances with Calvin Boze in the Midwest. In November "Only A Moment Ago" and the Inkspots-Savannah Churchill hit "Time Out For Tears" on # 5503 is released. In December, Dinah takes part in the 25th anniversary of famed Harlem night spot Smalls Paradise. At year's end "My Kind Of Man" and "If I Loved You" is released on on # 8206. Mercury # 8207 which features "Fast Movin Mama" and "That Juice Head Man Of Mine" is recorded with Teddy Stewart's band that included John Coltrane, Jimmy Heath, and Cecil Payne in the sax section.

In January of 1951, Mercury Records keeps the juke boxes loaded with Dinah's version of Billy Eckstine's hit "I Apologize" and "My Heart Cries For You" (a pop hit for Guy Mitchell) with the Jimmy carroll's Orchestra on # 8209. In March Dinah does a series of one nighters on the West Coast. In March Mercury releases # 8211 recorded with Jimmy Carroll's Orchestra on the tunes "I Won't Cry Anymore" and "Don't Say You're Sorry Again". In April Dinah records two songs usually connected to other singers - Jimmy Witherspoon's "Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own" and Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone To Love" with Wynton Kelly on # 8231. In May Dinah tours with the Earl Bostic band throughout the Midwest. In May of 1951 Washington tried her style with a song written by country legend to be Hank Williams with "I'm So Lonely I Could Cry" backed by a conventional R & B tune "Fine Fine Daddy" recorded with Walter Buchanan's band on # 8232. By June "I Won't Cry Anymore" is a big seller across the country. In July, Dinah plays the Paradise Theater in Detroit with The Dominos and Arnett Cobb's Orchestra. In July "I'm A Fool To Want You" and "If You Don't Think I'm Leaving" recorded in Los Angeles with the Ike Carpenter Orchestra is released on # 5665. During October Dinah and the earl Bostic band play the Apollo Theater in New York. Mercury Records plans to push for an increased presence in the R & B field. The label has had little success except for the steady selling records by Washington. In October Mercury issues "Mixed Emotions" and another Hank Williams country tune "Cold Cold Heart" (a pop hit for Tony Bennett) recorded with a combo including Wynton Kelly and Paul Quininchette on # 5728, and "Saturday Night" and "Be Fair To Me" recorded with Ike carpenter's band on # 8249. In November the release flood continues. Dinah teams up with pioneering vocal group The Ravens on another Hank Williams tune "Hey Good Lookin" and the ballad tune "Out In The Cold Again" on # 8257. Late in the month "Baby Did You Hear" and "Just One More Chance" are released on # 5736. "Hey Good Lookin" takes off in the Northeast and Midwest as a surprise hot seller.

Early in 1952 Dinah Washington records her version of the hot selling "Wheel Of Fortune" originally by Eddie Wilcox and Sunny Gale. The side was recorded in Hollywood with a band that included sax stars Ben Webster and Wardell Gray. The flip side was the Four Aces hit "Tell Me Why" on # 8267. In March "Trouble In Mind" and "New Blowtop Blues" (reprising her first hit record) are released on # 8269. That month Dinah marries again - this time to her manager Jimmy Cobb. Dinah teams with Mabel Scott at the Club Alabam in Watts, and then on to St. Louis for a show with Cootie Williams band at the Masonic Hall. In April, the "Concert At Midnight" broadcast live from Carnegie Hall on Mutual featured Dinah Washington fronting her old boss Lionel Hampton's band, and did a great version of "Wheel Of Fortune". In May "New Blowtop Blues" becomes a big seller in Chicago and Detroit. In June all attendance records are broken by a show featuring Dinah with The Ravens, Arnett Cobb's band and nine year old Leslie Uggams. "Mad About The Boy" and "I Can't Face The Music" are released by Mercury on # 5842. In June Washington is honored at New York City's Birdland night club. Cash Box presents her with a scroll officially naming her "Queen of the Juke Boxes" and Leonard Feather also presented her with an award for her performances over all. The entire festivities were broadcast live in New York. The song "Pillow Blues" is paired with "Double Dealing Daddy" on # 8292. In September Dinah records Johnny Ace's hit "My Song" and "Half As Much" another Hank Williams country tune (a pop hit for Rosemary Clooney) with the Jimmy Cobb Orchestra on # 8294. In November "Make Believe Dreams" is a good seller in many markets across the country. The flip side is the standard "Stormy Weather" on # 5906. At year's end "Gambler's Blues" and "I Cried For You" is issued by Mercury on # 70046, as the label changes its numbering system.

Dinah's first recording in the year of 1953 is "You Let My Love Grow Cold" and "Ain't Nothing Good" on # 70125. In May "Lean Baby" and "Never Never" on # 70175 is issued. In July Washington plays Baltimore's Royal Theater and follows with a tour of theaters in the Northeast and has a "Lean Baby Contest" as a tie-in with her current record hit. In August Dinah plays the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit with The Royals (soon to become The Midnighters). In September "TV Is The Thing" is an immediate seller and a Cash Box "Buy of the Week". The flip side is "Fat Daddy" and is on Mercury # 70214. In October Dinah plays the Pittsburgh Courier's poll winners show called "Operation Music" which was held in Philadelphia. Mercury releases the seasonal songs "Silent Night" and "The Lord's Prayer" on # 70263. Dinah returns to the Apollo Theater in New York in late January along with the band of Willis Jackson. About this time "Since My Man Has Gone And Went" and "My man's An Undertaker" is released on Mercury # 70284. In March the Juke Box Operators Association named Washington as one of the top moneymakers in the country. In March "Short John" recorded with Junior Mance and Clark Terry and "Feel Like I Wanna Cry" is out on # 70329. This is followed with "Such A Night" (a cover of The Drifters tune) and "Until Sunrise" on # 70336. In May Dinah makes her first appearance in Las Vegas at the El Patio, then heads east to Pep's in Philadelphia. In June Dinah joins Earl Bostic and crew for a weekend at Chicago's Trianon Ballroom then off for a number of one nighters together in the Midwest. That month Mercury releases "No No You Can't Love Two" and "Big Long Sliding Thing" which was recorded with Clark Terry and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis on # 70392. Two American standards are recorded for Mercury's subsidiary label called Emarcy (MRC - Mercury Record Corporation) - "Pennies From Heaven" / "Love For Sale" on # 16014. After the Midwest tour, Washington heads for California and two weeks at the Oasis and one nighters with Tiny Bradshaw. In August "Dream" and "I Don't Hurt Anymore" recorded with the Hal Mooney Orchestra are released on # 70439. This recording immediately becomes a big seller. She also does a marathon session with a recording band that features such musicians as Clifford Brown and Max Roach completing tracks for the LP album "Dinah Jams". In September Dinah helps celebrate Lionel Hampton's opening at New York's Basin Street East, then moves on for a week at that city's Birdland. In October Washington signs on for a tour of one nighters in the Southeast along with The Checkers, Danny Overbea, and Cootie Williams band. In November Dinah films a short musical production made for television by Studio Films. The series is called "Apollo Varieties" and will be seen on many stations around the country. That same month Dinah offers her version of the pop hit "Teach Me Tonight" along with "Wishing Well" with the Hal Mooney Orchestra on # 70497 which becomes a "Buy of the Week" in Cash Box. Dinah discovered a female vocal group performing in Atlantic City and was impressed enough by them to become their manager and have them become part of her current one nighter tour.

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