Sugar Pie DeSanto Biography
Sugar Pie has been called a great R&B singer as you can hear on her soon to be released CD, “Refined Sugar” on the Jasman Records label. Yet, DeSanto, born Umpeylia Marsema Balinton in San Francisco, who was dubbed “Little Miss Sugar Pie” by bandleader Johnny Otis when she made her recording debut with him for Federal Records in 1955, is far more than a great blues singer. She’s also a first-class soul singer, a commanding jazz stylist, an uproarious comedienne, show-stopping dancer and an expert tunesmith. She has made over twenty appearances at the Apollo in New York and appeared regularly at The Regal in Chicago and the Howard in Washington, D.C.
It was at the Apollo where she was spotted by James Brown and became his dynamic opening act for the next two years. In 1964 she was the only female act with the American Folk Blues Festival that toured Europe. Other headliners included Willie Dixon, John Henry Barbee, Sleepy John Estes, Clifton James, Sunnyland Slim, Herbert Sumlin, Lightnin Hopkins, Howling Wolf and the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson. The Lippmann and Rau production was publicized as “featuring the best Blues Artists of America.”
Over the years she has written more than 100 tunes two of which she recorded as a duo with Etta James (“Do I make Myself Clear?” and “In the Basement,” reissued by MCA, the latter being included on the soundtrack of the movie “The Hurricane”). Other songs of hers have been recorded by Billy Stewart, Little Milton, Fontella Bass, Bobby McClure, Minnie Riperton, Jesse James, The Dells and the Whispers, among others. With the exception of “Blues Hall of Fame,” written by blues great Jimmy McCracklin, and “Darkness to the Light,
co-written by Lonnie Hewitt and Paul Smith, all of the selection on “Refined Sugar” were written in whole or in part by DeSanto.
While Sugar Pie has made some memorable records over the years such as “I Want to Know,” “Slippin Mules” and “Soulful Dress,” it is her live performance that people particularly never forget.
Her Set at the 1974 San Francisco Blues Festival prompted Living Blues magazine to call her “the hit of the festival.” After an absence of over two decades, she returned to the 1998 Festival and, although her set was limited to only three songs, the S.F. Examiner reviewer wrote “the 63-year-old Sugar Pie DeSanto dazzles the crowd with her singing.”
In 1995 she played the prestigious Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Netherlands where she made the cover of Block Magazine. She has also been featured in a number of other magazines including the U.K.’s Blues and Rhythm and Mohair Sweets as well as Roctober and Filipinas.
She performed at the 1997 St. Louis Blues and Heritage Festival where she received rave reviews in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
In both 1997 and 1998 she received the award for “Best Female Live Blues Performer” from Canada’s Real Blues Magazine. In 1999 she received a BAMMIE for ”Outstanding Blues Artist.” In May 2003 she was honoured as a Blues Legend by the California Music Awards (formerly BAMMIE).
She appeared at the Belgium Spring Blues Fest in May 2005, followed by successful engagements at the Le Meridien Hotel in Paris and show stopping performances at the Cognac Blues Festival.
Miss DeSanto is one of the contributors to the book,
”Harlem of the West – The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era” by Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts to be released in February 2006.
Miss DeSanto was featured in an hour-long interview on House of Blues Radio which aired nationally. She is a frequent headliner in San Francisco at John Lee Hooker’s popular Boom-Boom Room.
Sugar Pie is a great songwriter and singer but as expressed by Rob Harvilla in the East Bay Express (Jan 2006), “…DeSanto can only truly do herself justice in person, a rowdy, full-contact experience…”
James C. Moore, Sr., Mgr.
P. O. Box 19700, Oakland, CA 94619
For booking: Lisa Walters
E U Booking