Sugar Pie DeSanto – 1965 – Nights At the Roundtable
Probably not as well known as her label mates Etta James or Fontella Bass, Sugar Pie DeSanto was part of that galaxy of divas who put Chicago blues label Chess/Checker on the map.
She recorded a considerable number of material for the label and had many singles that, although not mega-hits were nonetheless memorable and have given credence to the argument that she’s one of the many underrated and overlooked artists who were active in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Tonight it’s a single from 1965. Never Love A Stranger is a nicely laid out song that borders on Deep Soul, but is further evidence DeSanto was a powerhouse and could keep up with the likes of Etta James, whom she recorded several duets with.
Johnny Otis discovered DeSanto in 1955, and she toured with the Johnny Otis Revue. Otis gave her the stage name Sugar Pie. In 1959 and 1960, she toured with the James Brown Revue.
In 1960, DeSanto rose to national prominence when her single “I Want to Know”, reached number four on Billboard’s Hot R&B chart. She recorded the song with her husband, Pee Wee Kingsley. Soon thereafter their marriage ended. DeSanto moved to Chicago and signed with Chess Records in 1962 as a recording artist and writer. Among her recordings for Chess were “Slip-in Mules” (an “answer song” to “High Heel Sneakers”), “Use What You Got”, “Soulful Dress” (her biggest hit for Chess), and “I Don’t Wanna Fuss”. DeSanto participated in the American Folk Blues Festival tour of Europe in 1964, and her lively performances, including wild dancing and standing back flips, were widely appreciated.
In 1965, DeSanto, under the name Peylia Parham, began a writing collaboration with Shena DeMell. They produced the song “Do I Make Myself Clear”, which DeSanto sang as a duet with Etta James. It reached the top 10. It was followed by another DeSanto–James duet, “In the Basement”, in 1966. DeSanto’s next record, “Go Go Power”, did not make the charts, and she and Chess parted ways.
DeSanto kept on writing songs and recorded for a few more labels without much success. She eventually moved back to the Bay Area, settling in Oakland.
Though it has often been said that her stage performances far surpassed her studio recordings, a full-length live recording, Classic Sugar Pie, was not released until 1997.
Still active today and gathering a growing reputation for her down-and-dirty Blues interpretations as well as her catalog of great material, she is far from being forgotten.
Or . . .
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