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Della Reese-Lett

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Information about Della Reese-Lett

Profile image of Della Reese-Lett

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Television Actress
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
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Birthplace

Born:
7/6/1931
Birth Location:
Detroit, Michigan

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Television Actress
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
7/6/1931
Birth Location:
Detroit
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Biography

The name Della Reese is synonymous with entertainment and excellence. Starting her career in entertainment as a singer, she developed her own style with romantic ballads and other songs that utilized her unique blend of jazz, blues and gospel and phrasing that to this day makes for a sound that is unmistakably Della Reese.

Reese, born Deloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan, began singing in church when she was six years old. Throughout her formative years, Reese sang gospel music, and at age thirteen, she was hired by the late Mahalia Jackson to sing with her group.
Her big break came when she won a contest that gave her a week singing at Detroit’s famed “Flame Show Bar.” That week soon became eight weeks. This experience and others exposed Reese to the talents and styles of such music greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Al Hibbler, Billy Eckstine and others.

In 1953, Reese moved to New York City and became a vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, and shortly thereafter, signed a recording contract with Jubilee Records. Reese had her first major hit with “And That Reminds Me (of you).” That same year, she was voted “The Most Promising Singer” by Billboard, Cashbox, and Variety, as well as the Disc Jockeys of America and the Jukebox Operators Association.

Reese signed a new recording contract in 1959, with RCA, and subsequently enjoyed her biggest hit, a tune adapted from Puccini’s La Boheme, entitled “Don’t You Know”. Acknowledgement from the music industry followed as she was nominated for a Grammy Award as best female vocalist. This led to Reese performing for the next nine years in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the thirty years that followed “Don’t You Know,” Reese has continued recording.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Reese launched a successful television career. She appeared on many television shows that are now considered classics, including The Perry Como Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, as well as more than twenty appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Her success continued over the years, with numerous appearances on television and in movies. In 1994, Reese was tapped to star in the hit series Touched by an Angel. Reese was honored for her talents in 1994 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In addition to her singing and acting, Reese led a deeply spiritual life. In 1986, she was ordained as a minister by the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon, and she gave weekly sermons at her church, Understanding Principles For Better Living, in Los Angeles.

Reese was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 18, 2004.

Reese passed away on November 19, 2017 at age 86.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - List of sponsors for 'An Evening with Della Reese'
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Introduction to 'An Evening with Della Reese'
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lorraine Toussaint introduces and greets Della Reese
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Della Reese talks about growing up in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Della Reese remembers overcoming a childhood illness
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Della Reese recalls her early singing experiences
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Della Reese details her meeting of Mahalia Jackson
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Video montage highlighting events from Della Reeses's early musical career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Della Reese describes her various jobs
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Della Reese recounts her first steady singing job
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Della Reese talks about being a unique singer
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Della Reese discusses the enentrepreneurial skills of Daddy Braggs
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Video montage showing Della Reeses's rise into the national spotlight
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Della Reese discusses raising one of her brother's daughters
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Della Reese explains how Ed Sullivan furthered her career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Della Reese recalls time spent performing in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Della Reese relates how she dealt with Las Vegas's segregated culture
  • Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Della Reese explains her transition into hosting a television talk show
  • Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Della Reese remembers a near-fatal accident
  • Tape: 1 Story: 20 - Video montage showcasing Della Reese's television career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 21 - Della Reese details her transition into her spiritual work as a minister
  • Tape: 1 Story: 22 - Della Reese talks about Redd Foxx's personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 23 - Della Reese tells of her relationship with Franklin Lett
  • Tape: 1 Story: 24 - Della Reese explains how she's dealt with racism throughout her life
  • Tape: 1 Story: 25 - Della Reese considers her legacy
  • Tape: 1 Story: 26 - Conclusion of 'An Evening with Della Reese'