Belfast Telegraph

Death of a 1950s jazz legend ... Northern Ireland's Ottilie Patterson

She was once one of the UK's best-known blues singers. But when legendary Fifties performer Ottilie Patterson was laid to rest this week in Co Down, it was in complete obscurity.

Patterson, who was 79, was buried in her native Comber after dying on June 20 in Ayr, Scotland, where she had lived in quiet anonymity for the past 30 years.

She rocketed to stardom in the 1950s as a vocalist with the Chris Barber Jazz Band, marrying Barber in 1959 while they were touring and subsequently recording extensively together.

While her death has gone unreported in the national media and music Press, mysteriously it seems to have been Ottilie's own wish that there would be no fuss over her death.

Her records became top sellers as her singing career went into overdrive.

Patterson's first major appearance with the band was what is now regarded as a legendary Royal Festival Hall, London, concert on January 9, 1955.

She stunned critics and the public alike with the power of her voice, and the fact that a white girl from Northern Ireland could sing the blues.

Patterson later became dogged by ill health and suffered the breakdown of her marriage to Barber, leading her to withdraw from a glittering career.

As early as 1963 she began to suffer throat problems and stopped appearing and recording regularly with Barber.

The singer officially retired from the band in 1973. But early in 1983 Barber and Patterson gave a series of concerts around London. These were recorded for the LP Madame Blues and Doctor Jazz (1984) - her most recently issued recording.

Popular recordings under her own name included various EPs - Blues (1955), That Patterson Girl (1955), That Patterson Girl Volume 2 (1956), and Ottilie (1959).

Chris Barber, now 81, is currently on a UK tour with The Big Chris Barber Band.

The band, which also starred Lonnie Donegan, was seen as a pioneering force in bringing blues and rock 'n' roll to the UK.

Patterson had been living almost as a recluse in the Rozelle Holm Farm Care Home in Ayr and news of her death was only confirmed yesterday.

Her body was taken home to Comber, where she was born in 1932, before she was given a private burial in the family grave on Tuesday.

Profile

Born Anna Ottilie Patterson, her father Joseph was from Northern Ireland and her mother, Julija Jegers, from Latvia. Although Ottilie trained as a classical pianist, she never received formal singing training. Patterson met husband Chris Barber in London in 1954. As an art student at Belfast College of Technology, she was introduced to blues and jazz.

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