San Francisco born Sugar Pie DeSanto launches her fourth CD for Jasman Records on March 21st this year. That’s the first day of spring and, for Miss De Santo, it will be her 70th, as it will for this reviewer. Born Umpeylia Balinton, she was nicknamed by legendary drummer/bandleader/promoter/producer Johnny Otis.
During a recording session for the Federal label in 1955, he dubbed her "Little Miss Sugar Pie." That session included such stars as sax players Plas Johnson and Preston Love with Ernie Freeman on piano and bassist Red Callender. Over the years, DeSanto recorded more than a dozen dates for famous labels like Aladdin, Checker, Rhythm, Veltone, Cadet, Chess and Argo. I’d love to hear her 1964 Fontana "live" recording from Hamburg with Sunnyland Slim, Hubert Sumlin and Willie Dixon.
Refined Sugar features the singer on fourteen tracks, eight of which are her own songs. Two of her compositions rate among our favorites on this CD. The very up to date "Git Back" shows the singer’s energy. Her "Nobody’s Home" is an indication that Sugar Pie doesn’t look back. We also loved her reading of the soulful "Life Goes On."Sugar Pie DeSanto is an earnest R&B performer and a bit of a legend in her native Frisco. She recently contributed her memories to the book Harlem of the West - The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era by Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts. It looks like an interesting read and is available at your favorite bookstore. DeSanto’s history goes well beyond her hometown. She logged more than 30 appearances at the Apollo Theatre over the years and has graced the stages of Europe with dozens of legendary blues artists. Interested listeners can hear samples from Refined Sugar at Amazon.