Jazz Singer Dakota Staton Dies at 76 The jazz vocalist Dakota Staton passed away this week at the age of 76. Staton received critical acclaim for more than two-dozen albums. She was best known for her 1957 hit song "The Late, Late Show."

Jazz Singer Dakota Staton Dies at 76

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Finally we take moment to recall a legend of the jazz world. Vocalist Dakota Staton died this week at the age of 76. She was best known for her 1957 hit, "The Late, Late Show." But Staton recorded more than two-dozen critically acclaimed albums. Allison Keyes has this remembrance.

(Soundbite of song, "Crazy He Calls Me")

Ms. DAKOTA STATON (Jazz Singer): (Singing) I'd say I'll move the mountains, and I'll move the mountain if he wants them out of the way…

ALLISON KEYES: Her voice was like a trumpet - bright, clean and a little tangy. Her personality was the same way. Staton's 92-year-old brother, Fred, says his baby sister started charming people on their Pittsburg block with her talent when she was just seven years old and already sounding as good as Billie Holiday.

Mr. FRED STATON (Ms. Dakota Staton's Brother): She'd go around in the neighborhood, entertaining the neighbors from time to time. And she was like a fixture doing that, just going around the different homes and singing for them.

KEYES: Dakota Staton was born June 3rd, 1930. By the time she was in her teens, Staton was already performing in small dance halls outside of Pittsburg. Then she hit the nightclub circuit, playing in Cincinnati, Chicago and The Flame Bar in Detroit.

Fred Staton says she came to stay with him in New York City, where Down Beat magazine named her the most promising newcomer of the year in 1955. Then, big band leader and DJ, Willie Bryant came to hear her sing.

Mr. WILLIE BRYANT (Jazz Artist, Big Band Era): Through the first song, she just came right in, got on the phone and called Capitol Records and got in touch with Dave Cavanaugh who that time was the head man there.

KEYES: Cavanaugh came to New York and Staton cut a 45 that didn't sell that well. Then in 1957, Capitol released her first album, "The Late, Late Show," and she never looked back.

(Soundbite of song "The Late, Late Show")

Ms. STATON: (Singing) Gee, it's cozy in the park tonight when you cuddle up and hold me tight. Stars above they seem to know we're putting on the late, late show.

KEYES: Dakota Staton went on to tour with jazz luminaries like George Ewing, Ahmad Jamal and Benny Goodman. But her brother Fred, a saxophone player who still performs with The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, says Staton didn't always endear herself to her fellow musicians. He says it was her uncanny ability to hear or sing a note and identify it with no external reference.

Mr. STATON: You don't probably think you're going to be - you just sounded not (unintelligible) get along with. It's just is automatic. You can't help it. And you have to have perfect intonation behind you. And if there's any imperfection, you can hear it. Sometimes, you would react to it. She was one who would react to it.

(Soundbite of song, "More Than You Know")

Ms. STATON: (Singing) More than you know, more than you know, the man in my heart, I love you so…

KEYES: As Staton got older, her voice became more like a cello than a trumpet, smoky and deep, with an undercurrent that illustrated the lyrics she sang like pictures on a page. Fred Staton says his sister was a bit of a handful to deal with.

Mr. STATON: Because she was a Gemini, so she's two persons. She can be funny and then, she can otherwise.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STATON: I wouldn't use the word, but you know what the other word is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: But he thinks that quirkiness may have kept her from reaching the fame of a Dinah Washington or Nancy Wilson, along with the fact that she converted to Islam after her marriage to a trumpeter in the late 1950s. Dakota Staton told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1996 that she had no complaints about her career, and it didn't matter that she is sometimes overlooked by those who cite the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae as the greatest of female jazz singers.

(Soundbite of song, "You'd Better Love Me")

Ms. STATON: (Singing) You'd better love me while you may. Tomorrow I may fly away. I want your gentle touch, your continental touch, your elemental touch…

KEYES: Allison Keyes, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "You'd Better Love Me")

Ms. STATON: (Singing) You'd better love me while I'm here. I have been known to disappear. So don't (unintelligible)

LYDEN: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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