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Houston's Bloodlines Lead Her To Success hide

R&B singer makes San Diego debut tomorrow night

Whitney Houston isn't joking when she says music is in her blood. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was the leader of the Sweet Inspirations, the highly acclaimed vocal group prominent in the 1960s for backing the likes of Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.

Her first cousin is Grammy Award-winning singer Dionne Warwick. Accordingly, Houston was exposed to music at a very early age, and spent much of her adolescence listening to -- and watching -- her mother work in recording studios.

By age 13, she had joined the musician's union and was performing on records by Lou Rawls, Chaka Khan and, periodically, her mother.

The precocious teenager then went the Neville Brothers and the avant-garde New York funk group, Material. Now a seasoned professional at the tender age of 22, Whitney Houston is poised to match the success of her former employers.

Her self-titled debut album is one of the biggest selling records by any rhythm-and-blues singer to be released this year, and has already yielded two hit singles, "You Give Good Love" and "Saving All My Love For You."

Currently embarked on her first headlining concert tour, Houston makes her San Diego debut tomorrow night at Humphrey's, where she performs at 7 and 9 p.m.

"I was 11 or 12 when I decided I wanted to be a professional singer, but I had been singing gospel music in church long before that," recalled the strikingly attractive vocalist, who put a promising career as a fashion model on hold to devote more time to music.

"My parents were basically happy about my decision to pursue singing.

My mother said, 'Oh, my God I don't believe it!' But she was very supportive. I learned so much from my mother. She's not with me when I'm on stage, but I feel her presence in the wings."

(The elder Houston, who maintains a lucrative career as a studio session singer in New York, candidly acknowledges her influence on her daughter. "She rips me off right in front of my face," Whitney's mother told an interviewer earlier this year. "But that's all right. She does it so well.")

Houston's debut album, though, makes it clear that she's not just a chip off the old block.

Possessed of a clear, powerful voice, the young Houston has clearly learned her lessons well.

Too many of her songs adhere to a rigid pop formula, but her exuberant delivery, broad range and impeccable control allow her to transcend otherwise unspectacular material. "I would like to be regarded as a good singer, a great singer," said Houston.

"My becoming a solo singer was like a hand going into a glove, but the glove had to be stretched. I think that we knew that we had to be careful with my record, which we spent two years making. I think I was fortunate to do it that way. I didn't rush it or procrastinate. I'm very happy with the album, but -- looking back -- there are a lot of things I could've done better.

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