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Billinglsey, Jo Jo (28th May 1952-24th June 2010)

She was a singer-songwriter, also known as Deborah Jo White, born in Memphis, Tennessee, as the youngest in a family of seven children, where her father was a cattle farmer. Living in Senatobia, Mississippi, she started to sing when she was around three years old, inspired by the farm workers singing spiritual songs at church and this followed by her singing in Senatobia’s First Baptist Church with the choir. By the time she had reached twelve she was performing there as a soloist and also being picked out to sing at school assemblies and as a member of the Glee Club.

She started concentrating on a musical career pretty much straight after leaving school and on the death of her father and in 1972 joined the band Oil Can Harry. This catapulted her into touring both nationally and internationally and after nearly a year and a half she joined up as a Honkette with Lynyrd Skynyrd. She sang with them right up until 1977 when they decided to revert to all male members and her final performance was in Las Vegas. She was recalled to them just before the plane disaster but she had opted to drive to a show in Little Rock and so missed the fateful flight that carried all the other members. She has said she dreamt about the crash two nights before it happened and had called all the members to warn them of what she had “seen”.

A year later she was back working and recording with Artimus Pyle and other band members in Alias and followed that by becoming a singer with the Atlanta Rhythm Section . She also recorded with Billy Joe Royal and performed live with .38 Special.

She stopped singing in 1980 after being attacked backstage and very soon got married and had a son. She had another child in 1985 who passed away when she was only a month or so old and in 1991 had a further daughter Destiny Faith. She also refound her faith in 1985 and after relocating to Cullman, Alabama, was convinced to start singing in church again. This subsequently led to her releasing the recordings In Jesus Name and Double Portion, which includes a gospel version of “Sweet Home Alabama”.

In 1995 she was featured in Freebird the Movie that told the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd.   The recordings she has appeared on over the years are numerous but include Contraband by Alias, Champagne Jam by the Atlanta Rhythm Section and One More For the Road, Street Survivors, Skynyrd’s Innyrds by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

She became very involved in the music ministry and was also part of the Saturday Night Special Band with Artimus Pyle , Leslie Hawkins and Ed King who are all previous Lynyrd Skynyrd members.

After battling with cancer she passed away in Cullman, Alabama, in June 2010 when she was 58 years old.

Atlantic Rhythm Section recordings
I’m Not Going to Let It Bother Me Tonight (Buddy Buie/Robert Nix/Dean Daughtry )

Here she is with the surviving Lynyrd Skynyrd member, Artimus Pyle, performing with the Southern Boys Band on “Sweet Home Alabama”.  She is wearing red…

Sources:

  1. http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=188968859
  2. http://www.kieran.keegan.btinternet.co.uk/Skynyrd/jo_jo_billingsley_bio.htm
  3. http://www.downsouthjukin.com/jo_jo_billingsley.htm
  4. http://www.swampland.com/articles/view/swampland/90
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JoJo_Billingsley
  6. http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Jo%20Jo%20Billingsley:1927042417?sort=az
  7. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:0cfwxqt5ldde~T4