Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 6: Della Reese is 82-years-old today.

Della Reese is an American actress, singer, game show panelist of the 1970s, one-time talk-show hostess and ordained minister. She started her career in the 1950s as a gospel, pop and jazz singer, scoring a hit with her 1959 single "Don't You Know?”
Reese was born Delloreese Patricia Early in the historic Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. At six years old, Reese began singing in church and became an avid gospel singer. At the age of thirteen, she was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson's gospel group. Afterwards, she formed her own gospel group, the Meditation Singers.

However, due in part to the death of her mother, and her father's serious illness, Reese had to interrupt her schooling at Wayne State University to help support her family. She then took on odd jobs, such as truck driver, dental receptionist, and even elevator operator.

Performing in clubs, Early soon decided to shorten her name from "Delloreese Early" to "Della Reese,” knowing that her birth name was too long for a club marquee. Her big break came when she won a contest, which gave her a week to sing at Detroit's well-known Flame Show Bar.

In 1953, she signed a recording contract with Jubilee Records, for which she recorded six albums. Later that year, she also joined the Hawkins Orchestra. In 1957, Reese released a single called "And That Reminds Me” that became a Top Twenty Pop hit and a million-seller record. That year, Reese was voted by Billboard, Cashbox, and various other magazines, as "The Most Promising Singer.”

In 1959, Reese moved to a RCA Records, and released her first RCA single, called "Don't You Know?” which was adapted from Puccini's music for La Bohème, specifically, the aria Musetta's Waltz. It became her biggest hit to date, reaching the #2 spot on the Pop charts, and topping the R&B charts, which were then called the "Black Singles Charts.” The song is considered the signature song of her early career.

Reese received a Grammy nomination for her 1960 album, Della, and then released a successful follow-up single called "Not One Minute More." Reese continued to record albums in the following decades, receiving two more Grammy nominations in the gospel category for the album Della Reese and Brilliance and for the live recorded album, My Soul Feels Better Right Now.

In 1969, she began a transition into acting and TV. In 1970, Reese became the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In the late 1960s, she had hosted her own talk show, Della, which ran for 297 episodes. She also appeared in several TV movies and miniseries, was a regular on Chico and the Man. After coping with the death of one of her best friends, Redd Foxx in 1991, she played Tess, on the 1994-2003 television show Touched by an Angel.

In 2010, she became an ordained New Thought minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California. In her ministerial work, she is known as the Rev. Dr. Della Reese Lett.


For more about Della, visit her Website at -


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