During the 1950s, Dinah Washington was “the most popular black female recording artist” recording popular R &B and jazz tunes. Her biggest hit came in when she recorded, “What a Difference a Day Makes.”
Known as The Queen or Miss D, vocalist Dinah Washington emerged one of the most versatile cross-over artists of the post World Warera. Her gospel-trainedvoice-noted for its rhythmical precision and tonal clarityperformed blues, jazz, and ballads with equal authority. Arnold Shaw, in his book Honkers and Shouters: Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues, stated She had a flutelike voice, sinuous, caressing, and penetrating. Master of all devices of the blues and gospel shadings--the bent notes, the broken notes, the slides, the anticipations, and the behind-the-beat notesshe handled them with intensity that came from her early church training. Between 1948 and 1961 Washington made over 400 sides with the Mercury label, recordings that reveal her diversity and popular acclaim. Renown for her offstage brashness and erratic behavior, Washington spent these years struggling to maintain a successful music career while overcoming the affects of numerous marriages and sporadic crash dieting. Until her death in 1963 she toured nationally playing nightclubs and large venues such as and Carnegie Halla 20-year career that influenced younger singers from Ruth Brown to Nancy Wilson.
Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, , on August 29, 1924. At age three Ruths parents Ollie Jones and Alice Williams took her to . By age 11 Jones performed as a gospel vocalist and often appeared with her mother (who served her first music instructor) at church recitals across the country. In 1938 the 15-year old vocalist won first prize at an amateur contest at Chicagos Regal Theatre. She married at 17 and subsequently worked in local nightclubs. Jones studied vocals with renown gospel singer Sallie Martin and became her piano accompanist. Around 1943 she left the gospel field and sang in various Chicago nightclubs, including the Rhumboogie and the Down Beat Room. Jones worked as washroom attendant at a downtown lounge, the Garrick, often singing with the house band led by trumpeter Walter Fuller.
Legendary singer. Nicknamed "Queen of the Blues." Ruth Lee Jones was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her family moved to Chicago three years later. She started her musical career singing gospel and playing piano in the church choir. After seeing Billie Holiday perform, she was influenced to start singing the blues and thereafter performed in local clubs, where local musicians dubbed her "Queen of the Blues." At age 18, she was discovered by Lionel Hampton and was hired to front his band. It is unknown whether Hampton or a club manager changed her name to Dinah Washington. While working with Hampton, she simultaneously recorded solo work and had a strong following when she decided to leave the band. She won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance in 1959 for "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes." Although the album was panned by critics, it was a commercial success. Unfortunately, her personal life was not as successful as her professional career. She was married seven times (the last time to football legend ) and suffered from alcoholism and an addiction to diet pills. She died from an accidental overdose combining both substances.