One of the lesser known but still highly revered jazz singers from the ’50s and ’60s, Dakota Staton passed away last Tuesday in Manhattan. No specific cause was cited, but Staton’s health had been declining in recent years. She was 76.
Born on June 3, 1930, in Pittsburgh, Penn., Staton became interested in entertainment at an early age, especially singing and dancing. She attended George Westinghouse High and studied voice at the Filion School of Music in Pittsburgh. Determined to be successful, Staton plunged into the entertainment world immediately after school, performing frequently in the Steel City’s Hill District as a vocalist with the Joe Westray Orchestra. She then spent the following five years touring constantly, mostly in the Midwest in cities like Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis.
Finally, her big break arrived in 1954: While singing at a Harlem nightclub called the Baby Grand, Capitol Records producer Dave Cavanaugh noticed her and signed her to the label. After a few well-selling singles, Staton won DownBeat‘s “Most Promising Newcomer” award in 1955.
In 1957, Staton’s full-length debut, The Late, Late Show, was released to critical acclaim; its title track turned out to be her biggest hit. Though she never matched its success in terms of sales, Staton became a critical darling, releasing 10 albums-including a collaboration with George Shearing-for Capitol until 1961. After recording three albums for United Artists, she moved to England in the mid-’60s. Although she recorded sporadically after the move, she continued to perform regularly, embracing a bluesier style as she got older.
Staton released over two dozen albums, her most recent being Live at Milestones, a 1986 set released in March on Caffe Jazz.
She is survived by her brother Fred, a saxophonist who lives in New York City.