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Local singer channels her inner Ella for 100th birthday bash

RICHMOND, Va. -- Desiree Roots is throwing a birthday bash like no other. The guest of honor? Someone she has never met.

“You only turn 100 once! I am planning a big party. Oh my goodness,” said Roots. “Here we are. Mind blown. Here we are almost a week and half out.”

​The venue? The historic November Theatre on Broad.

“I wanted to do something special right here in Virginia because Ella is from Virginia,” said Roots. “To be honoring her in this way is a no brainer.”

Desiree Roots

More than 600 guests will toast one of music's all-time legends. The entertainment? None other than Roots herself.

“All of this music is like dessert. I couldn’t get enough of it,” said Roots.

April 25 marks what would have been the late-Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday.

“It is a dream. I am not just singing Ella’s songs that night. I wanted to become Ella,” said Roots.

Ella Fitzgerald

An accomplished singer in her own right, Roots is marking the occasion with a tribute. Her production has been in the works for months.

“It is such a challenge emulating her but it is so much fun,” she said.

The performance is the least she could do for the Newport News woman whose distinct scatting impacted her as a child.

“When you hear a trumpet play and then Ella would do it with her voice,” said Roots.

The 51-year-old mother of three grew up in a Church Hill home where singing was a staple.

Desiree Roots

“It was just constant music all of the time,” she said.

Roots' late parents both worked closely with Rosetta Sharpe the "Godmother of the Blues".

“I love this picture and a lot of times because my dad was so handsome,” said Roots. “He had the most crystal clear tenor voice. And my mom had the most beautiful soprano voice.”

Desiree’s dad (seated at the piano) and mom singing with the Rosettes at the Apollo Theatre (circa 1950's)

She said she is grateful for her parent's guidance, passing on their talents and love of music. Which leads her to the November Theatre.

“I’m more comfortable here on this stage than I am out in the world,” said Roots.

When she steps into the spotlight as Ella Fitzgerald Desiree Roots said her mom and dad will join her.

“They’re always right here whenever I go on stage.”  ​

Ella at 100. A one night only event. Where the hostess will be scatting and singing all the way back to her roots.

Desiree Roots

“Oh, my goodness I don’t think it can get any better,” said Roots. “I’m thinking she is up in heaven celebrating, ‘Hey that little girl is doing a pretty good job.’”

For more information about the tribute concert, click here.

If you know of someone who I should feature in my "I Have a Story" segment email me at gmcquade@wtvr.com.