Where did the baby name Dellareese come from in 1959?

Singer Della Reese (1931-2017)
Della Reese

Della Reese, who began her career as a singer in the mid-1950s, scored her biggest hit in 1959. That year, her song “Don’t You Know?” reached #2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart and #1 on the R&B chart.

A couple of years later, her studio album Della came close to winning a Grammy. (It lost to a live album by Ella Fitzgerald.)

Given than 1959 and 1961 were high points in Reese’s early career, it’s not surprising that the name Dellareese popped up in the U.S. baby name data those two years (and no others, so far).

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Dellareese
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 6 baby girls named Dellareese [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

The name Della by itself also saw a rise in usage during the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Della Reese, who went on to become an actress and talk show host, was born Deloreese Patricia Early in Michigan in 1931. I don’t know the story behind her birth name, but it looks like it could have been based on the name Dolores. Here’s how her stage name came to be:

At one of those little bars where I was booked for a week, somewhere in late 1952 or 1953, the owner went to put my name up on the marquee and found there was no way he could make it fit. Granted, it was a very small marquee. But no matter how he put up the letters, neither Deloreese Taliaferro nor Deloreese Early was working. So, he listed me by my first name only, changing the spelling slightly and breaking it up into first and last names: Della Reese. It stuck.

(Taliaferro was a former married name.)

I appreciate the symmetry of her original first name being split up to create a stage name, then the stage names being reconnected to create a baby name. :)


  • Della Reese – Wikipedia
  • Reese, Della, Franklin Lett and Mim Eichler. Angels Along the Way: My Life with Help from Above. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997.
  • SSA

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