Jones, Ruth AKA  Dinah Washington

Born: Aug. 29, 1924 Tuscaloosa, AL

Jazz, Blues Vocals

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington (August 29, 1924 – December 14, 1963), born Ruth Lee Jones, was a blues, R&B and jazz singer. She has been cited as "the most popular black female recording artist of the '50s",[1] and called "The Queen of the Blues".[2] She is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame,[3] and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.


Ruth Jones was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and moved to Chicago as a child. She sang gospel music in church and played piano, directing her church choir in her teens and being a member of the Sallie Martin Gospel Singers. After winning a talent contest at the age of 15, she began performing in clubs. She appeared at the Garrick Bar in 1942, and was recommended as a vocalist to Lionel Hampton. Changing her stage name to Dinah Washington, she joined Hampton in 1943. She made her recording debut for the Keynote label that December with "Evil Gal Blues", written by Leonard Feather and backed by Hampton and musicians from his band, including Joe Morris (trumpet} and Milt Buckner (piano).[4][1][5] Both that record and its follow-up, "Salty Papa Blues", made Billboard's "Harlem Hit Parade" in 1944.[6]

She stayed with Hampton's band until 1946 and, after the Keynote label folded, signed for Mercury Records as a solo singer. Her first record for Mercury, a version of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'", was another hit, starting a long string of success. Between 1948 and 1955, she had 27 R&B top ten hits, making her one of the most popular and successful singers of the period. Both "Am I Asking Too Much" (1948) and "Baby Get Lost" (1949) reached # 1 on the R&B chart, and her version of "I Wanna Be Loved" (1950) crossed over to reach # 22 on the US pop chart.[6] Her hit recordings included blues, standards, novelties, pop covers, and even a version of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" (R&B # 3, 1951). At the same time as her biggest popular success, she also recorded sessions with many leading jazz musicians, notably Clifford Brown on the 1954 live album Dinah Jams, and also recorded with Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, and Ben Webster.[1][5]

In 1959, she had her first top ten pop hit, with a version of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes", which made # 4 on the US pop chart. Her band at that time included arranger Belford Hendricks, with Kenny Burrell (guitar), Joe Zawinul (piano), and Panama Francis (drums). She followed it up with a version of Nat "King" Cole's "Unforgettable", and then two highly successful duets in 1960 with Brook Benton, "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" (# 5 pop, # 1 R&B) and "A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love) (# 7 pop, # 1 R&B). Her last big hit was "September In The Rain" in 1961 (# 23 pop, 5 R&B).[6]

According to Richard S. Ginell at Allmusic:[1]

"[She] was at once one of the most beloved and controversial singers of the mid-20th century - beloved to her fans, devotees, and fellow singers; controversial to critics who still accuse her of selling out her art to commerce and bad taste. Her principal sin, apparently, was to cultivate a distinctive vocal style that was at home in all kinds of music, be it R&B, blues, jazz, middle of the road pop - and she probably would have made a fine gospel or country singer had she the time. Hers was a gritty, salty, high-pitched voice, marked by absolute clarity of diction and clipped, bluesy phrasing..."

Washington was well known for singing torch songs.[7] In 1962, Dinah hired a backing trio that called themselves the Allegros. The male trio consisted of Jimmy Thomas on drums, Earl Edwards on sax, and Jimmy Sigler on organ. Edwards was eventually replaced by John Payne on sax. A Variety writer praised their vocals as "effective choruses".[8]


Washington was married eight times and divorced seven times, while having several lovers, including, according to Patti Austin, Quincy Jones.[9] She had two children. Her husbands were John Young (1942–43), George Jenkins (1949), Walter Buchanan (1950), saxophonist Eddie Chamblee (1957), Rafael Campos (1957), Horatio Maillard (1959–60), Jackie Hayes (1960), and Dick "Night Train" Lane (1963).

Early on the morning of December 14, 1963, Washington's eighth husband Lane went to sleep with his wife, and awoke later to find her slumped over and not responsive. Doctor B. C. Ross came to the scene to pronounce her dead.[10] An autopsy later showed a lethal combination of secobarbital and amobarbital which contributed to her death at the age of 39. She is buried in the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

Grammy Award-1959 Best Rhythm & Blues Performance What a Diff'rence a Day Makes R&B


Recordings by Dinah Washington were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."[11]

Year Title Genre Label Year Inducted

1959 Unforgettable pop (single) Mercury 2001

1954 Teach Me Tonight R&B (single) Mercury 1999

1959 What a Diff'rence a Day Makes traditional pop (single) Mercury 1998


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed a song of Dinah Washington as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock.[12]

Year Recorded Title Genre

1948 Am I Asking Too Much? R&B

Honors and Inductions
Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington is a 1964 album recorded by Aretha Franklin as a tribute.
In 1993, the U.S. Post Office issued a Dinah Washington 29 cent commemorative postage stamp.
In 2005, the Board of Commissioners renamed a park, near where Washington had lived in Chicago in the 1950s, Dinah Washington Park in her honor.[13]
In 2008, the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Washington's birthplace, renamed the section of 30th Avenue between 15th Street and Kaulton Park "Dinah Washington Avenue."[14] The unveiling ceremony for the new name took place on March 12, 2009, with Washington's son Robert Grayson and three of her grandchildren, Tracy Jones, Tera Jones, and Bobby Hill Jr., in attendance.[15]
Year Title Result Notes
1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducted Early Influences
1984 Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame Inducted
Mercury Records Discography Project -, retrieved June 24, 2010
Mercury Records Collection, retrieved June 24, 2010
Roulette Album Discography, Part 1, Both Side Now Publications, retrieved June 24, 2010
allmusic ((( Dinah Washington > Discography > Main Albums ))) is quite questi
Queen of the Blues: A Biography of Dinah Washington, Jim Haskins, 1987, William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-04846-3
Top Pop Records 1955-1972, Joel Whitburn, 1973, Record Research.
1^ a b c d Richard S. Ginell, Biography at
2^ Ebony, April 1971, p.122
3^ Bogdanov et al. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues p. 373. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879307366
4^ Keynote Records discography
5^ a b Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: induction profile
6^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 469.
7^ New York Times. April 7, 1998. Peter Marks. Theater Review: Queen Of Blues Is Royally Annoyed With Life
8^ "Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington" Nadine Cohodas 2004
9^ Patti Austin recorded in BBC documentary, The Many Lives of Quincy Jones, 2008
10^ "Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington" Nadine Cohodas 2004
11^ Grammy Hall of Fame Database
12^ 500 Songs That Shaped Rock
13^ [1] The Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Park District. FEBRUARY 9, 2005
14^ "Odetta should be memorialized" The Tuscaloosa News, Monday, December 8, 2008
15^ "Sign links singer with local roots" by Bebe Barefoot Lloyd, The Tuscaloosa News, Friday, March 13, 2009
16^ Though "1958 - 1960" in the title, it clearly contains only 1959 and 1960 recording sessions.
More info:
The Swingin' Miss "D", Dinah WashingtonDinah Jams, Dinah WashingtonUnforgettable, Dinah Washington20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Dinah Washington, Dinah WashingtonQueen: The Music of Dinah Washington, Dinah WashingtonFirst Issue - The Dinah Washington Story, Dinah Washington





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