Lady Dottie and the Diamonds
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Lady Dottie and the Diamonds


Band Rock Blues


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"101 Best Nights Out!"

Lady Dottie and the Diamonds
Tower Bar, San Diego

Lady Dottie's a sixtysomething blues queen with body pillows for boobs and more swagger than Space Ghost. Her backing band, the Diamonds, features members of Gogogo Airheart, and the audience boogies at her shows like the blues still matters. -Troy Johnson (4 Stars) - Spin Magazine

"Free Swingin'"

Lady Dottie & The Diamonds revive the blues
By Seth Combs

The lady onstage has the presence of a Baptist preacher; consistently wiping sweat from her brow yet somehow going on for hours at the same breakneck pace. She doesn't want a testimonial, or even a “hallelujah.” A simple holler back will do.

The pulpit is getting a little crowded, the booths all but taken.

With that, Lady Dottie & the Diamonds launch into “Walking the Dog,” a song made famous by Rufus Thomas. While the song selection isn't unique, the band onstage certainly is. Dottie, a voluptuous black woman, is significantly older than the men surrounding her, although the Lady rarely tells her real age. The Diamonds look like a bunch of indie-rock guys (many are) who stumbled into the wrong gig.

But here they are, belting out standards like “Proud Mary” and “In the Midnight Hour.” They play 'em like they were meant to be played, broken down to the blues roots of rock 'n' roll and capturing rock's initial intent: to make you happy and to make you move.

“Everyone's getting loose and having a good time,” keyboardist and co-vocalist Joe Guevara explains of D&D gigs. “It's not a cool-kid contest. We're not trying to fake like we're coming up with some new art form that has some kind of integrity that no one gets. We're trying to be part of the audience and party with them.”

While formed by Dottie (Dorothy Mae Whitsett) and Guevara as a standard jazz duo, they've evolved over the past few years into a full-fledged band that includes drummer Andy Robillard, guitarist Nate Beale and stand-up bassist Stephen Rey. Guevara and Dottie admit that they originally just wanted to play some corporate gigs and make some money on the side.

“We didn't think that it would catch on with our peers,” says Guevara.

Dottie nods in agreement, but adds: “Old, young, we're all in this together. You can bring your mama to our show and she'll have a good time.”

People started to take notice a few years ago when the band began a regular gig at the Tower Bar in City Heights. Every week, more and more people showed up. The place would get hotter, the people would get looser. Everyone knew every tune, as the band segued from “I Just Want to Make Love to You” into “Born to be Wild” as if they were the same song, the crowds throwing the words back at the band.

That night at the Tower Bar started to revive a lost ideal in music: the connection between audience and performer, an absence of space between the stage and the floor.

Now here they are, wrapping up their first of three sets of the night. While most bands would be exhausted, Lady Dottie & the Diamonds often play for close to four hours each gig. There are plans to record an album of original material (with a few covers thrown in for good measure), but for now the band seems content just playing the music they love.

Later in the night, a woman in the audience leans over to me and says she can't believe there's no cover charge at the door; I'm reminded of something Dottie said earlier, during a totally unrelated conversation.

“Happiness shouldn't cost you a dime.”

- San Diego City Beat

"Lady Dottie A Lady In Motion"

Lady Dottie a lady in motion

By Buddy Blue
December 22, 2005

When Lady sings the blues, you will stop in your tracks and pay heed. When Lady demands that you get up offa that thang and put your hands together, you will obey her decree.

When Lady Dottie & the Diamonds play the Casbah tonight, you will attend the show, and thank me tomorrow morning for the recommendation (Casbah owner Tim Mays apparently concurs, stating, "I want to make out with Dottie!" on the club's Web site).

AdvertisementDon't take our word for it, though – Lady Dottie & the Diamonds won "Best Blues" honors at the 2005 San Diego Music Awards. Last year, the Union-Tribune's Nina Garin named the group one of San Diego's 10 best. And – most tellingly – Lady Dottie & the Diamonds reliably draw large, diverse crowds, remarkable by the standards of local blues bands.
"That was marvelous when I won," said Lady Dottie (Dorothy) Whitsett of her SDMA award. "I shouldn't say I won it, though, because the guys was there with me, so let's say we won it together. I feel like when the time comes for you, it's there."

Whitsett, 61, was born and raised in Talladega, Ala., where she sang gospel from early childhood. "Music just came from my heart," she said. "Once you been born and bred with it, you can't lose it no way."




Lady Dottie & the Diamonds
9 tonight; The Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., Middletown; ; Free with new unwrapped toy(619) 232-HELL


As a teenager, Whitsett became enamored of blues and R&B, much to the consternation of her church-going parents. "'I know you ain't gonna sing that song!'" she recalled her horrified folks' admonishment, still breaking into maniacal laughter at the memory. "But we all have to follow our dreams through the years."

Whitsett's dreams took her to Hackensack, N.J., at age 19, where she performed regional R&B gigs for 15 years. In her 30s, she relocated to Atlanta, putting singing on the back burner while employed as a chef.

In 1984, she landed in San Diego, where Whitsett alternated chef work with singing stints aside pianist Michael Leyton, local blues legends Fro Brigham and Tomcat Courtney, and guitarist T-Bone.

The pivotal musician in Whitsett's life, though, has been pianist Joey Guevara.

"I was cheffing at (local bar & grill) the Bayou, and he was playing piano there – he was playing pretty good for a white boy!" Whitsett recalled. "I come up from cooking and sang with him a couple times, and then he just told me to come sing with him every weekend."

From this partnership grew Lady Dottie & the Diamonds, which currently features bandleader Guevara, guitarist Nate Beale, bassist Stephen Rey and drummer Andy Robillard – a group of young rock musicians.

"That really is a shock, isn't it?" laughed Whitsett. "I know it is! It's most definitely a lot of fun and it keeps me on the move. Yes indeedy, it's marvelous working with these young guys, because they really want to play the blues."

The Diamonds play it traditional-style, roadhouse-rough, but possess a high-energy, rock 'n' roll edge that sets them apart from the competition. It's a match made in heaven with the fiery stage presence and vocals of Hurricane Dottie.

"Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight – those are all people I can relate to," she said. "I understand the way they going. Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Millie Jackson – all those crazy women did it right. I can deal with them."

Whitsett has trouble dealing with San Diego's contemporary blues scene, though.

"It's really gotten weak," she lamented. "A lot of the old guys that really played the blues right is gone. The ones out there today play too fast for where we came from. They just run through stuff and they ain't feeling it. It's changed a lot. The young blues people need to wake up."

Wake up and smell Hot Dottie. She'll get your blood flowing, instill rich Southern soil 'neath your fingernails, stir your somnolent soul and give you a dizzy dose of the happy feets!


Buddy Blue is a San Diego writer and musician.

- Sign On San Diego

"Lady Dottie Pretty Much Blew Our Minds"

Lady Dottie
and the Diamonds
Lady Dottie and the Diamonds
(Hi-Speed Soul)

Goes well with: Bettye LaVette, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Betty Davis (the funky one, not the movie star)
While most folks her age are retiring, Lady Dottie is getting booties shaking on a weekly basis. This woman and her band of local blues-baby hipsters (members of Jejune, Dirty Sweet, Operator X), together for five years now, have even managed to get my rhythm-less ass on the dance floor. But anybody who’s seen them live knows how hard it would be to channel that kind of raw blast to record, right?
Well, judging by the opening riffs of “I Ain’t Mad at Ya” on their self-titled debut, there’s no need to worry. Whether it’s covers of B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues” or Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel,” the Lady’s voice is weathered by the storm but no doubt sees the light. And Joey Guevara’s organ moves beyond percussive and into full-blown Ellington-style orchestration, playing with the same authority most bands reserve for lead guitar.
The real glory here is how amazing the five original songs stand out among the covers. I would have loved a bluesy ballad thrown in for good measure, but when they close the album with a cover of The Jeffersons theme, I can’t help but think a ballad would have only slowed the roll. An album of all-originals is planned for the spring, but for now, Lady Dottie is both a loving tribute and holy reverence, wrapped into one of the best party records you’ll hear all year. Call it the blues. Call it classic R&B. Either way, congrats are in order. Now they’re up in the big leagues.
—Seth Combs

- San Diego City Beat 9/9/08

"Lady Dottiee Finds New Career Fronting Soul-Rock Band"

Lady Dottie finds new career fronting soul-rock band
| Thursday, September 11, 2008 10:16 AM PDT ?‡

Post your Comments Increase Font Decrease Font email this story print this story Says Lady Dottie of her bandmates in the Diamonds: "With these young guys, they're teaching me and I'm teaching them. Gospel and blues is what I grew up on, not the rock 'n' roll.
Lady Dottie & the Diamonds
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Valley View Casino, 16300 Nyemii Pass Rd., Valley Center
Admission: Free
Info: (866) 843-9946
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., San Diego
Admission: $12
Info: (619) 232-4355
Web: JIM TRAGESER - Staff Writer

It was picking cotton that inspired her to come to San Diego, and her cooking skills that actually brought her here.

So there's a bit of good luck and maybe even a touch of fate that have led to Dorothy Mae "Lady Dottie" Whitsett becoming one of the most popular musicians in San Diego County.

Whitsett, whose Lady Dottie & the Diamonds plays at Valley View Casino Saturday night, said she first dreamed of moving to California as a child while working in the fields of her native Alabama.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I was always wanting to come to California," Whitsett said by phone last week from her San Diego home. "I used to stand in the fields picking cotton and see the planes going overhead and say, 'that's going to be me someday.'"

It wasn't until 1984, though, that she found her way to San Diego.

"I was working as a gourmet chef in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Abbey. I transferred to the Abbey in San Diego. I came here when they first opened up."

Now retired from her culinary career, Whitsett has put a renewed focus on her music ---- a passion she's always nurtured, but didn't plan on making into a second career.

Growing up the fourth of 13 children, Whitsett said her introduction to music came in church.

"I started in church. The Lord gave me the gift. I didn't really have to take lessons, I feel like I know what to do."

Whitsett said her parents were pretty strict, and so she was an adult before she heard any popular, non-sacred music.

"I was 20 before the devil got a hold of me!" she said, laughing, about her family's view of non-church music.

During travels that took her from Alabama to New York, New Jersey and then Atlanta, Whitsett said she sang in a variety of local blues bands wherever she was.

"I feel like I've been singing professionally all my life; I'm just now getting paid," she said of her musical career.

As for the current, and wildly popular, band, Lady Dottie & The Diamonds, Whitsett said it grew out of a jazz duo she formed with keyboardist Joey Guevara.

"The piano player, Joe, we've been together about 12 years," she said. "I met him down at the Bayou (Bar & Grill). I was working the kitchen and he was playing in the bar by himself, and I used to come out when I finished work and just try to sing some with him. That's how we started. The other guys came along in the last five years."

Besides Whitsett and Guevara, the band has several of Guevara's bandmates from local rock band Operator X: Stephen Rey on bass and Brian Cantrell on drums. Dirty Sweet's Nathan Beale is one of two guitarists, the other being Isaiah Mitchell. Dan Guevara plays horns.

The calling card of Lady Dottie & The Diamonds ---- besides the dance-ready music they play, seamlessly blending '60s R&B and soul with straight-ahead rock 'n' roll (think Tina Turner sitting in with Blind Faith or Creedence Clearwater Revival) ---- is the combination of a middle-aged black woman fronting a band of young white guys.

But Whitsett says the band's makeup was more accident than design ---- she was looking for musicians with a high energy level who could play blues, jazz, soul and rock, and the members of the band all ended up being people Guevara knew, or friends of friends.

"I was singing with a lot of bands in San Diego years ago that do jazz. But I knew I could do blues, and when I found the guys are as good as they are, we started going more into the blues.

"With these young guys, they're teaching me and I'm teaching them. Gospel and blues is what I grew up on, not the rock 'n' roll."

With their second CD coming out this weekend, their regular weekly show at the Tower Bar in San Diego, and some mini-tours as far afield as San Francisco, Whitsett said she's curious to see where it all leads.

"We've not really put it out yet," Whitsett said of the new CD. "Like my momma said, we'll see."

But whether Lady Dottie & The Diamonds becomes the next big thing or not, Whitsett said the band's infectious dance grooves will continue. Giving listeners a good time is the band's only real aim, and Whitsett said the band members know they've got that part down.

"Everybody who comes gets up and dances. They don't feel like they can't get up and dance. They just come right in the door wiggling, 'cause they know they're going to get something good."

Lady Dottie & the Diamonds

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Valley View Casino, 16300 Nyemii Pass Rd., Valley Center

Admission: Free

Info: (866) 843-9946

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., San Diego

Admission: $12

info: (619) 232-4355


- North County Times


Full lenth album out now on CD and LP(with digital download coupon) through Hi-Speed Soul Records (Nada Surf, Adam Franklin of Swervedriver, Sirhan Sirhan, Swervedriver, Jim Noir, etc.)



Check out this EPK for interviews and live footage.
A staple in San Diego for more than a decade featuring some of the most talented musicians around (boasting current and former members of Jejune, Earthless, The Freeks, and more) Lady Dottie and the Diamonds are the regions premier blues act. It’s a boogie-woogie dance party that goes all night.

The band leader, Lady Dottie, is a soulful woman in her early 60s named Dorothy Mae Whitsett. Singing everywhere from the kitchen to the pulpit, she was raised in a family of 14 and performed in a gospel choir. “It was hard coming up, but I’m still here and feeling good, too” Whitsett admits. “Days of hunger made me stronger!” An Alabama-bred fireball, Dottie’s curvier than Lombard and got more gumption than a pack of wolves. She’s a tambourine-toting, hip gyrating powerhouse with a sultry voice that will leave you trembling.

“I feel privileged to turn a new generation onto the blues” Whitsett says. “We have to realize that people are meant to come together, and nothing does that like music.”

Without fail, Dottie and her Diamonds work audiences into a fevered frenzy. This band seems God-sent. Shine On You Crazy Diamonds!

(This text taken from a recent article in San Diego’s prestigious 944 Magazine. Written by Derek Shaw, it was so on the money we thought he should be the voice in this bio!)