Della Reese was just six years old when she began singing in church choirs. Born Dellareese Patricia Early, her religious mom knew her child had a powerful voice that could belt out any melody filled with emotions. That one-of-a-kind voice got Reese an opportunity to sing with Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in her Jackson troupe at 13 years old.
According to a 1970 Widnes Weekly News article, Reese sang with Mahalia for five consecutive summers—holding on to the surreal moment for as long as she could. Although she had a great chance at becoming a star instantly, Reese decided to attend Wayne University in Detroit. She studied psychology and even formed her own Gospel group, The Meditation Singers.
Things were going well for the singer/actress until her mother died. Her father was also extremely ill and couldn't take care of himself. So, Della Reese left school to care for her father and youngest siblings. She had to think of ways to make money and her heart was with singing, so she had to make a way back to her first love.
Reese's first job doubled as a singer and hostess at a nightclub in Detroit. Not too long after, she was hired by the Flame Club and got to study the styles of guests who appeared, like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
When she finally got the chance to stand in the center of the stage, the response of the club visitors was mind-blowing. The opportunity came at the right time because she just recorded her first record with a local label.
After working hard and making a name for herself, Della Reese snagged a hit record in 1957. "Autumn Concerto" was a song based on an Italian melody that perfectly matched Reese's singing style.
EVERY DAY AT 7 AM EASTERN