Friday, April 13, 2007

Jazz Vocalist Dakota Staton, 76, Dies

by Nate Guidry
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 12, 2007

Dakota Staton, an iconic Pittsburgh jazz vocalist who achieved international fame, died Tuesday at Isabella Geriatric Center in New York after a lengthy illness. Ms. Staton was 76.

Sharynn Harper, a spokesperson for Ms. Staton's brother, Fred Staton, said Ms. Staton had been in declining health after suffering a triple aneurysm several years ago.

Ms. Staton's last major performance in Pittsburgh was in 1996 when she performed at the Hill House Auditorium as part of the Mellon Jazz Festival.

Born and raised in Homewood, Ms. Staton attended Westinghouse High School and was a member of the famed Kadets, a swing band that played music ranging from "String of Pearls" to Coleman Hawkins' "Body and Soul."

After cutting her teeth working with the Joe Westry Orchestra at several of the bigger nightclubs in the Hill District, Ms. Staton moved to Detroit in search of other musical opportunities.

In 1954, Ms. Staton recorded a single for Capitol Records and began a series of highly visible concerts on the East Coast. Two years later, she was named "the most promising jazz vocalist of the year" by the critics at Downbeat Magazine. When her first album, "Late Late Show," appeared the following year, it was hailed a classic.

In the mid 1960s, Ms. Staton moved to England.

"From England I ventured all around the world," Ms. Staton told the Post-Gazette in a 1996 interview. "Most of the venues I played there were for international audiences that spoke and understood English, like the Intercontinental hotel chains and other places I worked. Many of those people had never heard the blues, and I was an oasis for them. I imagine some of them have never heard it since."

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