Della Reese, Co-Founder of Spiritual Icon Records, was born Deloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan, began singing in church when she was six years old. Throughout her formative years, she was deeply involved in gospel singing, and at 13, Della was hired by the late Mahalia Jackson to sing with her group. As Della recalls, "This opportunity to sing with the world's foremost gospel singer was a thrilling experience. I will never forget the wonderful association, which lasted three consecutive summers, and one of the many things I learned from her...how to communicate with people through song".
Later, while majoring in psychology at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Della formed her own female gospel group, "The Meditation Singers", which is listed in the "Who's Who of Gospel Music". In 1953, she made the move to New York City and became a vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, and shortly thereafter, signed a recording contract with Jubilee Records. Her first records included "In The Still of The Night", "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm", and "Time After Time". Della had her first major hit with "And That Reminds Me (of you)"
That same year, she was voted "The Most Promising Singer" by Billboard, Cashbox, and Variety, as well as The Disc Jockeys of America and the Jukebox Operators Association. Della signed a new recording contract in 1959, with RCA, and subsequently enjoyed her biggest hit, a tune adapted from Puccini's "La Boheme", entitled "Don't You Know". In the thirty years that followed "Don't You Know", Della Reese has continued her string of recordings, she recorded a traditional gospel album, “My Soul Feels Better Right Now” produced by her husband Franklin Lett giving her another Grammy Nomination in 1998. (Her first being in 1987 for the gospel album, “Della Reese & Brilliance”.)
A generous amount of television exposure followed Della's first recording successes. In the late 50's and early 60's, she appeared on many television shows that are now considered classics, including "The Perry Como Show", "The Jackie Gleason Show", as well as more than twenty appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show". She was the first female to host "The Tonight Show". She was soon asked to host her own talk show, "Della", (making her the first black woman to host her own show) which was syndicated nationally by RKO in 1969 and '70. A string of appearances on hit shows, such as, "Sanford and Son", "Chico and the Man", "Night Court", "Designing Women", "227", and of course, her own series with Redd Foxx, "The Royal Family".
The most recent of her television achievements was the CBS dramatic series, "Touched By An Angel" in which she received three Emmy nominations. After completing its ninth season, “Touched by An Angel” is still in demand on DVD and syndication. She also starred in several ‘movies of the week’, notably “The Secret Path”, “Anya’s Bell”, and “The Moving of Sophia Myles”. Della's television work was honored in 1994, as she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, the epitome of her action talents were seen in the movie "Harlem Nights" by Eddie Murphy, in which she and Eddie had one of the greatest fight scenes in modern movies.
Enjoying what free time she has at home, Della is now spending more time working on one of her other talents, writing. In fact her autobiography “Angels Along the Way” was released by Putnam Press in 1997,to great reviews, and her children’s book, “The God Inside Of Me”, by Hyperion Press, was one of the best-selling children’s books in 1999. Just recently Della has showcased her own fashion line on The Home Shopping Network.
As an ordained minister, Rev. Della gives excellent ‘Life Lessons’ every Sunday to a capacity audience. Her church “Understanding Principles for Better Living" is located in Los Angeles, and can be found on the Internet as ‘upchurch.org’, a non-denominational, multi-racial gathering studying and living by the teachings of Jesus Christ, our Savior.