Dawn Hampton was born in 1928, in Middletown, Ohio. Her father, Clark Deacon Hampton, Sr., had a family band and vaudeville act that was part of a traveling carnival. She grew up listening to the music of the family band, Deacon Hampton's Pickaninnys, sitting on an orange box behind her mother Laura's piano.
It wasn't long before the infant Hampton was making a contribution. She began performing at the tender age of three, and two years later sang "He Takes Me to Paradise".
Dawn is one of twelve children. Slide Hampton, the well-known jazz trombonist, is the youngest. Two of Dawn's older sisters, Aletra and Virtue, live in Indianapolis and are still performing and there are many more musical Hamptons scattered around the country.
After the war, the family band reunited for several years. There were fourteen pieces and nine Hamptons; Dawn played alto and tenor sax. They traveled under the leadership of her brother, Duke, and played throughout the Midwest and South. Finally, in 1950, the band achieved its dream of performing at Carnegie Hall (along with another well-known, although unrelated Hampton - Lionel).
Once the Big Apple got a taste of the Hampton Family, they were featured at the Apollo Theatre and the Savoy Ballroom. The Hamptons became the house band at the then-famous Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis, and then moved on to the Cincinnati Cotton Club. Sometime in the mid-1950s, several brothers left to study music and Dawn and her sisters Aletra, Virtue, and Carmelita continued to perform as The Hampton Sisters.
photo: ©Rich Hansen Photography, used by permission