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Varetta Dillard was one of the great unknown blues shouters of the 1950s. A two-time winner of the Apollo Theater's amateur competition, she recorded solo and as a part of a duo that she shared with vocalist/pianist H-Bomb Ferguson. Signed by Savoy in 1951, her singles included "Easy Easy Baby" in 1952 and "Mercy, Mr. Percy," her theme song, the following year.
Dillard became known for her tribute songs to fallen heroes. She recorded "Johnny Has Gone," in memory of late vocalist Johnny Ace, in 1955 and was pressured to record "I Miss You Jimmy," in tribute to James Dean, after switching to the RCA Victor/Groove label in 1956. Although she subsequently recorded for Triumph and MGM's Club subsidiary, Dillard ended her solo recording career in 1961 and joined her husband's gospel group, the Tri-Odds. A product of New York's Harlem, Dillard spent much of her childhood in hospitals due to a bone deficiency. She turned to music as a form of therapy.