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Also Known As: Della Reese Lett, Deloreese Patricia Early Died:
Born: July 6, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: actor, singer, screenwriter, clerical worker, minister, barber

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A no-nonsense, solidly-built singer and comedy performer who went from best-selling recording artist in the 50s to sitcom star in the 70s and 80s to dramatic TV star in the 90s, Della Reese was raised in Detroit, Michigan. By age six, she was singing in church and at age 13 was "discovered" by Mahalia Jackson and asked to join her group of singers. After touring with Jackson, Reese enrolled at Wayne State University, where she started a gospel group called The Meditations Singers. Reese's college studies were cut short by family problems and forces to help with finances, she worked a wide range of jobs from cutting hair to clerical work. She hit her stride when she was hired as a hostess and singer at Detroit's famed Flame Showbar. Reese moved to New York in 1953 to be a singer with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra and obtained a recording contract. In 1957, her hit single "And That Reminds Me" earned Reese her first berth (of 20 total) on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and awards as Most Promising Singer from Billboard, Cashbox and Variety. The next year, she signed with RCA and released "Don't You Know", which became her biggest-selling single, and which she sang in her screen debut as herself in "Let's...

A no-nonsense, solidly-built singer and comedy performer who went from best-selling recording artist in the 50s to sitcom star in the 70s and 80s to dramatic TV star in the 90s, Della Reese was raised in Detroit, Michigan. By age six, she was singing in church and at age 13 was "discovered" by Mahalia Jackson and asked to join her group of singers. After touring with Jackson, Reese enrolled at Wayne State University, where she started a gospel group called The Meditations Singers. Reese's college studies were cut short by family problems and forces to help with finances, she worked a wide range of jobs from cutting hair to clerical work. She hit her stride when she was hired as a hostess and singer at Detroit's famed Flame Showbar.

Reese moved to New York in 1953 to be a singer with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra and obtained a recording contract. In 1957, her hit single "And That Reminds Me" earned Reese her first berth (of 20 total) on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and awards as Most Promising Singer from Billboard, Cashbox and Variety. The next year, she signed with RCA and released "Don't You Know", which became her biggest-selling single, and which she sang in her screen debut as herself in "Let's Rock" (1958). (The song was also prominently featured in the soundtrack of 1993's film "A Bronx Tale".)

Reese parlayed her fame as a singer into her own syndicated talk-variety series, which ran from 1969-70, and made her dramatic TV debut in a 1970 episode of "The Bold Ones". In 1973, she also made her TV-movie debut playing Michael Evans' mother in "The Voyage of the Yes" and had a small role in the miniseries "Roots: The Next Generations" (1979). In 1976, she joined the cast of the NBC sitcom "Chico and the Man", as Jack Alberston's landlady, which she played for two seasons. This established her as a comic actress. Reese subsequently co-starred as a judge on "It Takes Two" (ABC, 1982-83) and as the meddlesome Aunt Rachel in "Charlie & Co." (CBS, 1986). She got her chance to star in "The Royal Family" (CBS, 1991-92), playing Redd Foxx's wife, but Foxx's untimely death was also the eventual death knell for the series. But Reese's association with Eddie Murphy, who was executive producer of the series, was ongoing. Although she had a part in the low-budget 1975 feature "Psychic Killer", she made her first feature film appearance in a studio film with "Harlem Nights" (1989). Murphy not only directed the film, but as star, he got to deck Reese's obnoxious character to the delight of the audience. Reese also starred in "The Kid Who Loved Christmas", a syndicated 1990 TV-movie from Murphy's company. Reese found herself the darling of young black comics. Martin Lawrence cast her as his mother in "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate", his 1996 directorial debut.

Reese moved from comedy to drama in 1994 when she starred in "Touched By an Angel" (CBS), in which she was Tess, the older and wiser guiding spirit to novice Roma Downey. The anthology series was a surprise hit; its message that the Almighty exists and has a plan for the average person tied in with Reese's concurrent career as a minister connected to the Universal Foundation for Better Living. She heads her own church in L.A.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Christmas Angel (2012)
3.
 Beauty Shop (2005) Cast
4.
 Dinosaur (2000) Voice Of Eema
5.
 Moving of Sophia Myles, The (2000) Sophia Myles
8.
 Anya's Bell (1999) Anya Herpick
9.
 Secret Path, The (1999) Honey
10.
 Emma's Wish (1998) Mona Washburn
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1938:
Began singing in church
1945:
Hired by Mahalia Jackson to sing in her group
:
Hostess and singer at Detroit's Flame Showbar
1953:
Moved to New York and sang with Erskine Hawkins Orchestra
1957:
Had first recording hit, "And That Reminds Me"; Made first of 20 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show"
1958:
Made feature film debut as herself in "Let's Rock"
1959:
Released best-selling hit, "Don't You Know"
1969:
Hosted the syndicated "Della Reese Show"; made TV dramatic debut in episode of "The Bold Ones"
1973:
Made TV-movie debut, "The Voyage of the Yes"
:
Appeared as regular on "Chico and the Man" (NBC)
:
Was series regular on ABC sitcom "It Takes Two"
1986:
Joined cast of CBS sitcom "Charlie & Co." as Gladys Knight's aunt
1989:
Co-starred in feature "Harlem Nights"
:
Starred in the CBS sitcom "The Royal Family"
1994:
Cast as Roma Downey's angelic supervisor in CBS drama "Touched By an Angel"; in 2000, contributed a script for an episode of the series
1998:
After well-publicized battles with CBS, obtained three-year contract with a reported $60,000 per episode raise (from $40,000 to $100,000)
2005:
Appeared in the comedy "Beauty Shop" starring Queen Latifah
2006:
Introduced a fashion line for larger women dubbed Della Reese Fashions on the Home Shopping Network
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Education

Wayne State University: Detroit , Michigan -

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Vermont Adolphus Taliaferro. Divorced.
husband:
Leroy Basil Gray. Divorced.
husband:
Franklin Thomas Lett Jr. Producer. Managed Reese's career.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Deloreese Daniels Owens. Radio operator technician. Born c. 1959; adopted by Reeese in 1961; died on March 14, 2002.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Angels Along the Way: My Life With Help Along the Way" G.P. Putnam's Sons

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