Betty St. Claire
Born Betty Waddell in Columbus, Ohio, singer Betty St. Claire (1927-1972) was hailed as a “find” when, aged 14, she made her professional debut at the Detroit Club Congo. It led to theatre and club work throughout the Mid-West and the East and, eventually, a place with Dizzy Gillespie’s 1949 big band, as well as jobs with other leading jazz groups like Erroll Garner’s trio and Howard McGhee’s quintet. Musically speaking she was quickly dining at the top table.
She brought to it some striking assets - great time, a warm, illuminating and inviting way with lyrics, and an innately musical approach. They were all wrapped in an attractively husky, even lusty, voice that placed her, as a stylist, in a spot somewhere between Anita O’Day and June Christy that she made her own.
Moving to New York she worked the nightclub circuit and 1955 debuted on record with a program of varied, sophisticated...