This fabulous rendition of the Spanish song, “Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado”, written by Mexican composer Maria Grever in 1934, had the English lyrics written by Stanley Adams. How ironic that what started out as a Spanish bolero song ends up as an Americanized ballad winning the second ever R&B Grammy award — specifically the Best Rhythm and Blues Performance 1959.
This cover had previously been done by jazz vocalist Kay Starr, saxophonist Benny Carter and of course there was the original hit version by The Dorsey Brothers Swing Band in 1934. Some of you may even recall there was a subsequent hit disco version remake by Ester Phillips in 1975: I liked it very much and in fact whenever I think of the song I think of Ms. Phillips version.
Miss Washington’s award winning version appeared on her 1959 Mercury Records album of the same name. The ballad “WADADM”, arranged by Belford Hendricks, finally made Miss Washington a “crossover pop star” even though she had been in the business performing in clubs as a pianist and singer since 1942.
Born, Ruth Lee Jones, Washington also performed with Salle Martin ‘s gospel choir as Ruth Jones as early as 1940. And even as a youngster, she was raised in the church, played piano and directed her church choir. So as you can see she had been paying her dues!
Ruth Jones became the vocalist for Lionel Hampton’s band in 1943 when she became Dinah Washington. My research turned up a few different scenarios as to how she came up with the name change. But under any name she was destined for solo stardom. She left Hampton in 1946 and began her solo career.
After her Grammy success she started singing only ballads but she could sing blues, jazz, gospel, pop — anything she wanted. Unfortunately, she died an unexpected accidental death from a lethal combination of diet pills and alcohol in December 1963, so we will never know to what other heights her career could have taken her.
Miss Washington was inducted in the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993
R.I.P. Miss Washington – you deserved the title “The Queen of the Blues.’”
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