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This Week in Texas Music History: Damita Jo Deblanc

by Stephen Becker 17 Aug 2012 2:00 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a singer who seemed to have an answer for everything.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman meets a singer who seemed to have an answer for everything.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Damita Jo Deblanc was born in Austin on Aug, 5, 1930. Although she and her family moved to California when she was still a child, Deblanc maintained strong ties to Central Texas and even returned to Austin years later to attend what is today Huston-Tillotson University. DeBlanc first made her mark in music while performing under the stage name Damita Jo in the post-World War II R&B scene in Los Angeles.

Her most successful recordings were those that related to themes found in other hit tunes. For example, her song “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” was written in response to the Drifters’ 1960 smash hit, “Save the Last Dance for Me.” Damita Jo’s greatest success came in 1961 with the tune “I’ll Be There,” her answer to Ben E. King’s classic song “Stand By Me.”

Damita Jo Deblanc went on to work with Ray Charles, Count Basie and other major artists. For a while, she also tried her hand at comedy, appearing with legendary comic Redd Foxx.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll visit a Dallas bowling alley that featured everything from sock hops to glam rock.