Washington, Dinah. (1924–1963)
Rare Early Promotional Photograph
Unusual early promotional photograph of the young singer, shortly after she adapted her performing name, captioned at the foot: "Dinah Washington with Lionel Hampton and Band."The very young Washington is shown seated, facing to the side and showing off her crossed legs in high heels. Some surface cracks, corner losses and toning; overall very good. 8 x 10 inches (20.8 x 25.2 cm).
Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and grew up in Chicago. As a teenager she began to perform in Chicago clubs such as Dave's Café and the Downbeat Room. Her breakthrough came in 1942, when Lionel Hampton heard her performing upstairs at the Garrick Stage Bar with the band Cats and the Fiddle. (Downstairs, Billie Holiday was performing in the Downbeat Room of the same club.) Hampton was sold on the eighteen-year-old Ruth, whose strong voice he knew would be heard "even with my blazing band in the background," and hired her to front his band—but with the new stage name of Dinah Washington. This early promotional photograph dates from shortly after she adapted this new name.
As to who was responsible for the name, Washington's biographer Nadine Cohodas writes: "Hampton and [his manager Joe] Glaser claim credit for giving Ruth a new name. But verifiable chronology suggests it was Joe Sherman who came up with 'Dinah Washington.' 'You ought to have something that rolls off people’s tongues, like rich liquor,' he explained, and to him 'Dinah Washington' fit the bill." (Nadine Cohodas, Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, excerpted on JerryJazzMusician.com.)