This Day in Black History: Nov. 25, 1928

Etta Jones

This Day in Black History: Nov. 25, 1928

Vocalist Etta Jones was born in Aiken, South Carolina, on Nov. 25, 1928.

Published November 25, 2013

(Photo: Gilles Petard/Redferns)

Jazz and blues singer Etta Jones has been frequently compared to the greats of her day, including Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. But Jones, who was born in Aiken, South Carolina, on Nov. 25, 1928, and raised in New York City, never achieved their level of fame.

Her 60-year career began at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on a very rocky note. Nerves got in the way, causing her to sing off key. But Buddy Johnson, a pianist-bandleader, thought she had talent and hired her to tour with his band for a year. Jones' first attempt to launch a solo career with singles recorded by such labels as RCA Victor also was initially unsuccessful. During the 1950s, she had to supplement her income working as an elevator operator and as a seamstress.

Jones' luck changed in 1960 with the jazz album Don't Go to Strangers, which sold one million copies and earned her a Grammy award nomination for the title song. In 1969, she partnered with saxophonist Houston Person, with whom she collaborated and toured until her death on Oct. 16, 2001.

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Written by Joyce Jones


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