DEBLANC, DAMITA JO
Photo courtesy of Representative Dawnna Dukes,
Texas Music Museum.
DEBLANC, DAMITA JO (1930–1998). Damita Jo DeBlanc, pop and soul singer, was born in Austin, Texas, on August 5, 1930. She was the daughter of Herbert and Latrelle (Plummer) DeBlanc, and she showed singing ability at a very early age. During World War II the family relocated to Santa Barbara, California, where her father was stationed in the United States Navy. She attended high school there but periodically returned to Austin to visit relatives. DeBlanc attended Samuel Huston College (which later merged with Tillotson College to form Huston-Tillotson College) in Austin and the University of California at Santa Barbara. In 1949 she performed a two-month stint at Club Oasis in Los Angeles. Signed to Discovery Records, DeBlanc, known simply as Damito Jo, released her debut single, “Until the Real Thing Comes Along.” She began a long career as a recording artist, as well as a jazz, pop, and soul singer in international supper clubs and on television.
In 1951 Damita Jo joined the rhythm-and-blues group Steve Gibson & the 5 Red Caps. She married Gibson in 1954; they divorced in 1958, but she remained with the group until 1960. Signing with Mercury, she scored a hit in 1960 with her song, “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You,” an answer to the top hit “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters. Her 1961 release, “I’ll Be There,” was in response to Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and reached Number 12 on the Billboard pop charts. In 1961 she married Biddy Wood, her manager, and they had a son.
A downturn, however, in Damita Jo’s popularity led to Mercury’s termination of her contract. She then signed with Epic. On May 9, 1967, she was honored by the mayor and city council in Austin, Texas, on "Damita Jo Day" and by having a street named in her honor. Damita Jo gave birth to a daughter in 1970, but the girl died of sickle cell anemia three years later. With her recording career in decline, she turned to performing on the supper club circuit in the 1970s. She also toured with comedian Redd Foxx and appeared on his television show. By the late 1970s she was singing in Atlantic City and backed up such greats as Ray Charles, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton. During her career she recorded on many labels, including Discovery, RCA Victor, Mercury, Epic, Melic, and her own label, Black Masters. In 1983 she also composed and recorded a song entitled "The Color of Your Skin Makes No Difference" which has been used as a part of a program for students in the public school system in Baltimore, Maryland. By the mid-1980s Damita Jo focused on performing strictly gospel music. She died in Baltimore on December 25, 1998. Singer Janet Jackson, whose middle name is Damita Jo, named her album Damita (2004) after DeBlanc. In 2009 Damita Jo DeBlanc was inducted into the Austin Music Memorial.
All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), accessed November 13, 2008. Austin American–Statesman, April 8, 2004. Austin Music Memorial (http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/music/memorial.htm), accessed October 15, 2009. Women in Jazz: Tribute to Damita Jo Deblanc (http://www.dmdukes.com/Damita_Jo_DeBlanc.htm), accessed October 13, 2011.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Clayton Shorkey and Laurie E. Jasinski, "DEBLANC, DAMITA JO ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdeam), accessed April 18, 2015. Uploaded on May 3, 2013. Modified on May 10, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.