Merry Melodies: Play the 100 Most Popular Holiday Songs
Signed to Mercury Records by producer Shelby Singleton, Damita Jo supported her Steve Allen-penned debut single "It Takes a Little Loneliness" with an appearance on Allen's late-night television showcase -- despite the publicity the record was not a hit, but she scored a Top 20 R&B smash with the sumptuous follow-up "I'll Save the Last Dance for You," written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. With 1961's "I'll Be There," an answer song to Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," Damita Jo reached number 12 on the Billboard pop charts, but subsequent singles like "I Had Someone Else Before I Had You" and "I'll Get Along Somehow" stalled, and in the wake of the 1962 live LP Damita Jo at the Diplomat, Mercury terminated her contract.
Upon signing to Epic, she scored a minor chart entry with 1965's "If You Go Away," but her career again waned, and after issuing 1968's Miss Damita Jo on the tiny Ranwood label, she focused on the supper-club circuit, later incorporating a comedy routine into her musical act. In 1977 she toured with standup comedian Redd Foxx, and also played Atlantic City in support of Ray Charles, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton. Following a 1984 Atlantic City residency in support of Joey Bishop, Damita Jo announced her retreat from secular R&B, performing contemporary gospel for the remainder of her career. After a long battle with respiratory illness, Damita Jo died on Christmas Day 1998 at the age of 68. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi