For Black History Month we’re turning the spotlight on several prominent black musicians both past and present whose contributions helped put Austin music on the map. KUT reporter DaLyah Jones produced these profiles for KUTX with help from Clay Shorkey of The Texas Music Museum.
Damita Jo (Aug. 5, 1930 – Dec. 25 1998)
Soul, pop and jazz singer Damita Jo DeBlanc Wood had a career that spanned far beyond the boundaries of her home in East Austin. At an early age Deblanc, born to Hebert and Latrelle PlummerDeBlanc, began to show off her musical talents. After being raised between Austin and Santa Barbara, California, she attended Samuel Huston College – which later merged with Tillotson College, creating Huston-Tillotson College – and University of California at Santa Barbara. Jo has been recognized around the globe for hits like “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” (1960) and “Stand By Me” (1961). Both are answer songs to the Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for Me” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Her accolades also include touring with comedian Redd Foxx and singing backup for Ray Charles. “Damita Jo” is also the middle name and Grammy-nominated album title of singer and actress Janet Jackson. Jo, who’s been likened to Ella Fitzgerald, continues to have a lasting and underappreciated impact on music all over the world today.
– DaLyah Jones, KUTX News