Obituary: Dakota Staton / Acclaimed vocalist and Pittsburgh native

June 3, 1930 - April 10, 2007

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Dakota Staton, an internationally acclaimed vocalist whose 1957 recording "The Late, Late Show" launched a long, successful career, died Tuesday at Isabella Geriatric Center in New York. She was 76.

Sharynn Harper, a spokeswoman for Ms. Staton's brother, Fred Staton, said Ms. Staton had been in declining health after suffering a triple aneurysm several years ago.

Dakota Staton in 1996.  

Ms. Staton's last appearance in Pittsburgh was in 1996, when she performed at the Hill House Auditorium as part of the Mellon Jazz Festival.

In 2001, Ms. Staton, who was not present, was inducted to the Gallery of Stars at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty.

Ms. Staton also has a star block on the sidewalk in front of the theater, said Anthony Amen, founder of the Gallery of Stars.

Over the years, Ms. Staton continued to return to Pittsburgh for concerts, performing with pianist Frank Cunimondo at his club, Cunimondo Keyboard in Verona, or at Per Favore restaurant in Oakland.

"Dakota was very demanding musically," said Mr. Cunimondo. "She was one of the innovators when it came to the jazz vocalists. As she matured, her voice got deeper and better."

Mr. Cunimondo said working with Ms. Staton was always a joy.

"She was one of the most respected singers in the business," he said. "She had her own style. She could get down and dirty. She could also put her own lyrics to songs."

Born and raised in Homewood, Ms. Staton attended Westinghouse High School and was a member of the famed Kadets, a swing band.

In 1954, Ms. Staton recorded the single "What Do You Know about Love?" for Capitol Records and began a series of highly visible concerts on the East Coast. Two years later, she was called "the most promising jazz vocalist of the year" by the critics at Down Beat magazine. When her first album, "The Late, Late Show," reached No. 4 on the charts, it was hailed a classic. Her second album, "Dynamic," rose to No. 22.

Nate Guidry can be reached at or 412-263-3865.


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