b. 1928, Middletown, Ohio, USA. Hampton gained much of her interest in music from her father who was the leader of a territory band, Deacon Hampton’s Pickaninnys, in which several members of the Hampton family played. Youngest of her 11 siblings is trombonist Slide Hampton. From the age of three, she worked with the family band and vaudeville act. After the end of World War II, the band reunited to form a 14-piece group, nine of whom were family members. As the band toured under the leadership of another brother, Duke Hampton, she played alto and tenor saxophones, sang and danced. In 1950, the band performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. (Also on the bill was the unrelated Lionel Hampton.) After touring for some years, the break-up of the band prompted Hampton to settle in New York City in 1958. There she joined the cast of the off-Broadway show, Greenwich Village, U.S.A. A hard-to-find original cast album featuring her was made. During the early 60s, she was house singer at the Lion’s Den. In 1964 Hampton underwent surgery that was complicated by injury to her vocal cords but after a year of convalescence she was able to resume her career. Her breakthrough came when she gained a following after beginning work in 1966 at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Through the 70s and 80s, Hampton continued to work cabaret venues in and around New York. Her work was recognized by a Lifetime Achievement In Cabaret award from New York’s Private Lives magazine. In 1988 she was nominated for the Distinguished Achievement, Director and Composer awards by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC). The following year, Hampton and pianist Mark Nadler co-composed music and lyrics for Red Light, that won a MAC Award in 1990. The pair also collaborated on An Evening With Dawn Hampton and she wrote music and lyrics for the play Madame C.J. Walker. With veteran dancer Frank Manning she appeared in Spike Lee’s movie, Malcolm X (1992). In the late 90s and into the early 00s, Hampton took advantage of the craze for swing dance, appearing internationally as dancer and dance teacher.