Monday, August 20, 2007

FAREWELL TO A DETROIT BLUES GREAT

Posted By on Mon, Aug 20, 2007 at 6:45 PM

Detroit blues singer Odessa Harris (aka Dessie Williams) died from complications of emphysema this past Saturday, Aug. 18th. She was 71. Born in West Helena, Arkansas, Harris began, like so many blues vocalists, singing in the choir at a local Baptist church. At the age of 14, she landed a spot singing with James “Peck” Curtis and the King Biscuit Boys on the legendary King Biscuit Time radio show. This led to a tour as a vocalist with Robert Nighthawk. After relocating to Florida, she toured as a vocalist with B.B. King from 1959 to ’61. Harris moved to Detroit in ‘72, where she began working with drummer Sonny Freeman (Bobby "Blue" Bland, B.B. King) and Sonny Freeman & the Unusuals, a fixture on the Midwest R&B circuit until Freeman’s death in the late ‘80s. She retired for a while but was eventually coaxed out to do more shows and recording. This past summer, she did a tour of northwestern Michigan, mainly playing jazz concerts and festivals, which is why her death came as such a shock to those who knew and respected her.

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