Dakota Staton’s strong, sultry, soulful voice will transport you back to the 1950s, an era when people flocked to nightclubs to hear live music, especially jazz or rhythm and blues.
Jazz critic Leonard Feather called Staton “a dynamic song stylist.” The New York Times said she influenced a generation of singers and called her “a stylistic link between the earthiness of Dinah Washington and Big Maybelle and Chaka Khan’s note-bending pop-fund iconoclasm.”
Born in 1930 in Pittsburgh, Staton attended Westinghouse High School in Homewood. At that high school, she joined Carl McVicker’s Kadets, a swing band in which future jazz legend Ahmad Jamal played the piano.
In 1954, she moved to New York City and recorded “What Do You Know About Love?/You’re My Heart’s Desire: for Capitol Records.
In 1957, Capitol released her album, “The Late, Late Show,” which became a classic. The title track rose to the fourth spot on the Billboard Top 100 because it crossed over to pop radio stations after frequent air play on jazz radio stations.
Staton went on to perform with such jazz superstars as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, George Shearing, Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. Glamour was her middle name. She wore bouffant hair styles, sheathed her voluptuous figure in beaded gowns and topped her ensembles with a mink stole.
Along with vocalists Etta Jones, Abbey Lincoln and Annie Ross, Staton’s career was chronicled in a 2000 documentary called “Jazz Women.”
In 2001, Pittsburgh honored Staton by inducting her into the Gallery of Stars at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty and gave her a star on the walk of fame in front of the theater.
In 2007, she died at age 76 in New York City, leaving a legacy of more than 30 jazz recordings.