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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Ottilie Patterson

Ottilie Patterson, the legendary blues singer from Northern Ireland, has died aged 79 at her home in Ayr, Scotland, where she lived for the past 30 years.

She was born in 1932 in Comber, Co Down. Her mother, Julija Jegers, was Latvian and her father Joseph was from Northern Ireland. Patterson took classical piano lessons, but had no formal vocal training. She studied art at Belfast Tech, where she first heard the music of Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton and Meade Lux Lewis, and began her own singing career.

After a few years with Jimmy Compton's Jazz Band and the Muskrat Ramblers, Patterson met the trombonist/ bandleader Chris Barber in London in 1954. Less than a year later she joined his band, creating a sensation when they appeared at a Royal Festival Hall concert.

In the years that followed they toured extensively and made several recordings together. The singer became a huge hit and contributed to the popularity of the Chris Barber Band. LPs under her own name included Ottilie's Irish Night, Spring Song and Back in the Old Days.

In 1959 Patterson married Chris Barber, but the marriage ended in divorce some years later. She never remarried.

Gifted with a warm, powerful voice and a natural sense of rhythm, she poured her heart and soul into such classics as Careless Love, St Louis Blues and There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.

However, in 1963 she began to suffer from throat problems and was unable to sing regularly. In 1973 she officially retired from the Chris Barber Band, but they had a reunion 10 years later and recorded a series of live concerts in London.

The comeback was short-lived, and Patterson lived in obscurity in Scotland for the rest of her life. She died on June 20 in Ayr and was buried in the family grave in her native Comber, Co Down.

Grainne Farren

Sunday Independent

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