Friday, 14 June 2024

Rhythm and Blues Foundation honors diva DeSanto

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Sugar Pie DeSanto. Photo courtesy of Jasman Records.
 

 

PHILADELPHIA – At its 20 year reunion celebration this Tuesday, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation has chosen to present the San Francisco Bay Area’s own Queen of the West Coast Blues, Sugar Pie DeSanto, a distinguished Pioneer Award.


The grand gala will bring together the royalty of rhythm and blues, including past Pioneer Award Honorees along with a veritable “who’s who” of the entertainment industry. More importantly, the event provides an opportunity to support a compelling cause, as its proceeds will ensure the continuation of the doundation’s community outreach, education programs and emergency grants to rhythm and blues artists during their time of need.


Ms. DeSanto, who has performed in Lake County, joins a stellar group of awardees at this year’s ceremony including Chaka Khan, Teena Marie, Bill Withers, Kool and The Gang, The Whispers, The Funk Brothers, Donny Hathaway and Al Bell.


Hosts for the evening include Dionne Warwick, Bonnie Raitt and Jerry Butler.


Born Umpeylia Marsema Balinton of Filipino and African-American parentage, DeSanto was dubbed Little Miss Sugar Pie by the legendary Johnny Otis who signed her to her first professional contract in 1954.


In 1959 her first hit record, “I Want To Know,” was recorded on the Veltone label and produced by the Godfather of Oakland Blues, Bob Geddins Sr. The record rose to No. 3 on the Billboard charts springboarding Sugar Pie into a lucrative contract with Chess Records.


During her tenure at Chess she became the most prolific and highest-paid writer in their employ. Her songbook contains well over 100 compositions which have been recorded by the likes of Minnie Riperton, Billy Stewart, Fontella Bass, The Whispers, Little Milton, The Dells and Jesse James.


Also while at Chess, Ms. DeSanto recorded two historic duets with Etta James, “In The Basement” and “Do I Make myself Clear.”


For a two-year stretch, Sugar Pie opened for James Brown, pushing him to higher heights with her white hot, daring, dazzling, saucy stage presence. James Brown earned the moniker “the hardest working man in show business” legitimately. Anybody who follows Sugar Pie to this day has to work harder.


DeSanto’s career spans six decades. She is still a vibrant, multi-faceted performer. In the summer of 2008 she has performed to capacity crowds at Yoshi’s Jazz and Supper Club, The Chicago Blues Festival and the Poretta Soul Festival in Poretta, Italy.


For more information on The Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s activities and events visit www.rhythmblues.org.


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