Lady Dottie and the Diamonds is an indie-rock band retrofitted with blistering soul licks and fronted by an old-school ground-stomping R&B scorcher. They won in 2005, 2007, and 2008 for best blues at the San Diego Music Awards, but that’s really not their thing. They play everything from Danzig to Rufus Thomas, and with soul — which Dottie knows all about. During a phone call from her home, she brightens when I bring up some names from San Diego’s R&B club past — Fro Brigham, Ninnie Brown, Jeannie Cheatham.
“I worked with Fro for 15 years,” she says, “mostly at Patrick’s, downtown.” I wonder how it is D&D go over so well with the youngish rock audiences they play to. “They like it because they can feel it,” she says. “If you can feel something, what else is there to do but get on up?”
Lady Dottie is Dorothy Mae Whitsett, born in Alabama, one of 13 children. She moved to New Jersey and remembers auditioning on amateur nights at the Apollo in Harlem. “Back in the day, with Luther Vandross — I was right there with him trying to get in. I was there. But I didn’t win.”
Cooking came as naturally as singing; she is self-trained at both. “I’ve been cooking all my life in restaurants — hotels, motels, Holiday Inns, you know? And singing, too. I just did it. I really didn’t do it [sing] for the money. If I had thought about doing it for money back in the day, you know, I’d be rich.” In 1984 she came to San Diego and started over. “I’m a hard worker, and I do things the hard way.” She laughs. “But the hard way’s good, too — you’ll be around a long time.”
LADY DOTTIE AND THE DIAMONDS: The Casbah, Saturday, July 4, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $5.