This Is What Happened To Etta James' Sons

A powerhouse of the music industry, Etta James had plenty of ups and downs in her career. Starting out in the 1950s, she became a stalwart of the 1960s music industry with hits "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind." Her career resurfaced and then disappeared many times until her death in 2012 at age 73. As for family, Etta married Artis Mills in 1969. Their relationship was marred by Mills' 10-year stint in jail after the pair of them were caught carrying narcotics and he told police the drugs were all his, though they did reunite upon his release.

Alongside her long marriage, Etta had two sons, Donto and Sametto. Both Donto and Sametto followed in their mother's footsteps and entered the music industry, albeit on a much smaller scale. The brothers even took after their mother's penchant for winning Grammys, being awarded two each for their contributions to her later albums. Overall, both sons seem to prefer keeping out of the public eye, though they have made statements now and again regarding their mother.

Donto and Sametto James live private lives

Donto James (pictured right, sitting) was born in 1968 to an unnamed father who wasn't in his life, per the Los Angeles Times. It is unknown when Sametto James (pictured left, standing) was born. At the time of Donto's birth, his mother was struggling heavily with addiction and attended rehab a few times. Speaking to The Daily Beast in 2017, Donto revealed that his grandmother tried to protect him from the truth and instead told him that his mother was unwell without specifying why. Etta James' first son also revealed that his family faced financial issues, saying "we were poor and broke." However, he did share that he enjoyed other parts of his childhood like going on tour. Little is known about Sametto's childhood.

Later on in their lives, both Donto and Sametto James were producers for their mother's 2003 album "Let's Roll" and her 2004 album "Blues to the Bone." The brothers each won best contemporary blues album and best traditional blues album at the 46th and 47th Grammy Awards. Both sons also accompanied their mother on what would be her last tour, with Donto playing drums and Sametto on bass guitar in the band. In 2008, per the Los Angeles Times, Donto was granted power of attorney by his mother. As for other family, Donto mentioned to The Daily Beast that Etta had grandchildren, including a granddaughter, but it isn't known whether they belong to him or his brother. 

The brothers were involved in a legal dispute over their mother's estate

In November 2010, both Donto and Sametto James were embroiled in a legal battle against Etta James' husband Artis Mills, per the Los Angeles Times. Mills, who had been married to Etta for over 40 years at the time, acted as conservator for her estate after she fell ill. He requested access to Etta's financial accounts (approximately $1 million dollars) in order to continue paying for her care. However, Donto opposed Mills' wishes and requested to act as a temporary conservator. In return, court records show Mills argued that his wife was not in "sound mind and judgment" when she gave Donto power of attorney in 2008. Sametto refuted this, saying at a hearing that his mother was "fine" and aware of what she did.

In late 2011, according to another report by the Los Angeles Times, it was revealed that Donto and Sametto had come to an agreement with Mills by letting him continue to make health-related and financial decisions for Etta. The judge presiding over the case awarded Mills $350,000 to help with the $30,000 he paid per month for Etta's care. The brothers additionally asked the judge if their mother could be moved to a hospital for more in-depth care, but their request was denied on account of the judge saying it was a decision the doctors needed to make. Etta died soon after from leukemia complications on January 20, 2012.