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Anderson, Ivie (10 July 1905–27 or 28 Dec. 1949), jazz singer, was born in Gilroy, California, the daughter of Jobe Smith. Her mother’s name is unknown. Anderson’s given name is sometimes spelled “Ivy.” She studied voice at St. Mary’s Convent from age nine to age thirteen, and she sang in the glee club and choral society at Gilroy grammar and high school. While spending two years at the Nunnie H. Burroughs Institution in Washington, D.C., she studied voice under Sara Ritt....

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See Andrews Sisters

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See Andrews Sisters

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Armstrong, Lil (03 February 1898–27 August 1971), jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee. Nothing is known of her father, but her mother, Dempsey Hardin, was a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. At age six, Lil began playing organ at home, and at eight she started studying piano. In 1914 she enrolled in the music school of Fisk University in Nashville, taking academic courses and studying piano and music theory. After earning her diploma, around 1917 she joined her mother in Chicago, where she found work demonstrating songs in Jones’ Music Store. Prompted by her employer, in 1918 Hardin auditioned for clarinetist Lawrence Duhé’s band at Bill Bottoms’s Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with cornetist “Sugar Johnny” Smith, trombonist Roy Palmer, and other New Orleans musicians. When Smith became too ill to continue working, he was replaced by first ...

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Austin, Lovie (19 September 1887–10 July 1972), pioneer jazzwoman, was born Cora Calhoun, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Little is known about Austin’s personal life. She studied music theory and piano at Roger Williams University in Nashville and Knoxville College in Knoxville. Her musical contributions were nearly overlooked until the revived interest in women in jazz in the 1970s. The reacquaintance with Austin can be attributed to the publication of three books on women in the early days of jazz....

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Mildred Bailey © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0040 DLC).

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Bailey, Mildred (27 February 1907–12 December 1951), jazz singer, was born Eleanor Mildred Rinker in Tekoa, Washington, the daughter of Charles Rinker, a farmer of Irish descent, and Josephine (maiden name unknown), who was one-eighth Native American. She attended local schools in Spokane. The Rinkers were a musical family—Mildred’s mother, father, and a brother played piano, her father also sang, and another brother played the saxophone. When Mildred was in her teens, her mother died of tuberculosis; She subsequently moved to Seattle to live with an aunt. In Seattle she met and married Ed Bailey; they had no children. Around that time Mildred obtained her first singing job, plugging hit tunes in the back of a Seattle music store. She later divorced her husband and in 1925 moved to Los Angeles, where she found work playing piano and singing in a Hollywood speakeasy. The same year she married Benny Stafford, but the childless marriage did not last....

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Carlisle, Una Mae (26 December 1915–07 November 1956), jazz pianist, singer, and composer of popular songs, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the daughter of Edward E. Carlisle and Mellie (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. (The assertion that she was born in Xenia, Ohio, published in many references, does not conform to family records.) With piano training from her mother, she sang and played in public at age three in Chillicothe, Ohio. After participating in musical activities at church and school in Jamestown and Xenia, Ohio, she began performing regularly on radio station WHIO in Dayton while still a youngster. In 1932 she came to the notice of ...

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Carter, Betty (16 May 1929–26 September 1998), jazz vocalist, was born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, Michigan, the daughter of James Jones, a factory worker who also led a Baptist church choir, and Bertha Cox Jones. Carter grew up in Detroit, where she attended North Western High School. She later studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory, and it is rumored that she falsified her age to be admitted. In 1946 she began singing at local clubs and sitting in on sessions with ...

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June Christy © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0125 DLC).

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Horace Clarence Boyer

Christy, June (20 November 1925–21 June 1990), jazz singer, was born Shirley Luster in Springfield, Illinois. She moved to Decatur, Illinois, as a young child and at age thirteen began singing the popular songs of the day with a local band. After graduating from high school she settled in Chicago, where she secured work as the “girl” singer with local society bands. Uncomfortable with both the style and repertoire of such bands, Luster signed on in 1938 with a dance unit led by ...

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Cox, Ida (25 February 1896–10 November 1967), blues singer, was born Ida Prather in Toccoa, Stephens County, Georgia, of parents whose names have not been recorded. In Cedartown, Georgia, where she spent her childhood, Prather sang in the African Methodist church choir. At age fourteen she left home to tour with the White and Clark Black & Tan Minstrels, playing “Topsy” roles; she subsequently joined other companies, including the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and Pete Werley’s Florida Cotton Blossom Minstrels. She married three times. Her first husband, Adler Cox, whom she married about 1916, was a trumpeter with the Florida Blossoms Minstrel Show; he died in the First World War. The date of her second marriage, to Eugene Williams, is unknown; the couple had a daughter. Her third husband was Texan Jesse (“Tiny”) Crump, a pianist and organist who may be heard performing on some of her recordings and who also shared management responsibilities with her....

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Fitzgerald, Ella (25 April 1917–15 June 1996), singer, was born Ella Jane Fitzgerald in Newport News, Virginia, the illegitimate daughter of William Fitzgerald and Temperance (Tempie) Williams. The common-law marriage ended soon after her birth, and when Fitzgerald was three she moved with her mother to the mill town of Yonkers, New York, where they settled in a neighborhood composed of European immigrants and African Americans. In 1923, her mother began living with Joseph Da Silva, a Portuguese immigrant, with whom she had another daughter, Frances Da Silva. Ella Fitzgerald remained close to her half-sister, her only sibling, all of her life—one of her few enduring intimate relationships. Although she never divulged the facts publicly, it is known that Fitzgerald suffered some form of abuse from Da Silva, her stepfather, during the years when the girls were growing up in Yonkers....

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Ella Fitzgerald © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0285 DLC).

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Babs Gonzales, c. 1946-1948. © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0339 DLC).

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Gonzales, Babs (27 Oct. 1916 or 1919–23 January 1980), jazz singer and conversationalist, was born Lee Brown in Newark, New Jersey. His parents’ names are unknown. Any sketch of his activities must be extremely shaky, owing to his fondness for hyperbole and disinformation. His birth year has always appeared as 1919 in reference works, but his ...

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Gryce, Gigi (28 November 1927–17 March 1983), jazz saxophonist, flutist, and composer, was born in Pensacola, Florida, and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Gryce was the product of a highly musical family: his brother and four sisters all were classically trained on a variety of instruments. In his youth, Gryce attended music school in Hartford, developing his skills on flute, alto saxophone, clarinet, and piano. In 1946 he began performing in and around Hartford, both as a sideman and as the leader of his own 23-piece group. In 1948 Gryce moved to Boston to attend the Boston Conservatory, where he studied composition and instrumentation with Daniel Pinkham and Alan Hovaness. In 1952 he won a Fulbright scholarship to study music in Paris, where he continued his instruction in composition with the famed composer Arthur Honegger....

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Hall, Adelaide (20 October 1901?–07 November 1993), vaudeville, musical theater, and jazz singer and actress, was born in New York City, the daughter of William Hall, a Pennsylvania German music teacher at the Pratt Institute, and Elizabeth Gerrard, an African American. She made many jokes about her birth year; on her birthday in 1991 she declared that she was ninety years old, hence the conjectural 1901....

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Hegamin, Lucille (29 November 1894–01 March 1970), blues singer, was born Lucille Nelson in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of John Nelson and Minnie Wallace. In her youth Hegamin sang in church, and she also sang ragtime tunes and popular ballads at theaters in Macon. At about age fifteen she joined Leonard Harper’s touring company until it was stranded near Chicago. As the “Georgia Peach,” Hegamin found steady work in that city from 1914 to 1917, presenting popular songs in nightclubs, cafés, and restaurants. Among her piano accompanists were Bill Hegamin, whom she married around 1914, Tony Jackson, and ...

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Hill, Chippie (15 March 1905–07 May 1950), dancer and singer, was born Bertha Hill in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Hill and Ida Jones. From the age of nine she sang in church. The family moved to New York City sometime around 1918, and the following year Hill danced at Leroy’s Club in Harlem in a show led by ...