I'm Yours, You're Mine
Betty Carter

Verve Records

The Carmen McRae/Betty Carter...
Carmen McRae & Betty Carter

Verve Records

I Can't Help It
Betty Carter

Impulse! Records

The Audience With Betty...
Betty Carter

Verve Records

Look What I Got
Betty Carter



  1. Toshiko Akiyoshi
  2. Geri Allen
  3. Andrews Sisters
  4. Angela Andrews
  5. Lil Harden Armstrong
  6. Dorothy Ashby
  7. Pearl Bailey
  8. Beverly Barkley
  9. Karen Briggs
  10. Ruth Brown
  11. Diane Cameron
  12. Betty Carter
  13. Joan Cartwright
  14. Kim Clarke
  15. Gloria Coleman
  16. Alice Coltrane
  17. Dorothy Donegan
  18. Ella Fitzgerald
  19. Rita Graham
  20. Jace Harnage
  21. Billie Holiday
  22. Bertha Hope
  23. Shirley Horn
  24. Lena Horne
  25. Alberta Hunter
  26. Jus' Cynthia
  27. Sandra Kaye
  28. Emme Kemp
  29. Vinnie Knight
  30. Lavelle
  31. Peggy Lee
  32. Abbey Lincoln
  33. Melba Liston
  34. Gloria Lynne
  35. Tania Maria
  36. Marian McPartland
  37. Carmen McRae
  38. Mabel Mercer
  39. M'zuri
  40. Sandy Patton
  41. Trudy Pitts
  42. Cheryl Porter
  43. Shirley Scott
  44. Nina Simone
  45. Bessie Smith
  46. Carol Sudhalter
  47. Sarah Vaughn
  48. Dinah Washington
  49. Ethel Waters
  50. Mary Lou Williams



Betty Carter was born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, Michigan, on May 16, 1930.   At a young age, she began the study of piano at the Detroit Conservatory of Music, and by the time she was a teenager she was already sitting in with Charlie Parker and other bop musicians when they performed in Detroit.  After winning a local amateur contest, she turned professional at age 16, hooking up with the Lionel Hampton band by 1948, billed as Lorraine Carter.  Hampton was the man who hung the nickname 'Betty Be-Bop' on her (a nickname she hated, as she found bebop limiting and wanted to do more than just scat), but it stuck, and ultimately she changed her stage name to Betty Carter.   At the age of 21, she traveled to New York with the Hampton band and set up home there.

Betty spent the early 1950s as a singer with different group.  She did several shows at the Apollo, playing with such notables as Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie, toured with Miles Davis in 1958 and 1959, and spent much of the rest of the time on the outskirts of the jazz scene.  Her refusal to adopt a more "mainstream" jazz style led to difficulty in finding bookings and making recordings.  She made her first recordings in 1955 with a then-unknown piano player named Ray Bryant.  The album, Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant, was little received, and her second set of recordings, with the Gigi Gryce band in 1956, languished unpublished until 1980.

By 1958, she was ready to record again, and another little known album, I Can't Help It, was the result, followed closely by a recording on the Peacock label (a Texas gospel label), Out There.   She was developing a reputation as a fiercely independent woman (an attitude she developed based in part on her interactions with Gladys Hampton, Lionel's no-nonsense wife) and a devoted jazz singer, and her popularity among the inner jazz circles was high, but critical and popular acclaim eluded her.  She was becoming well-known for her signature style that combined off-beat interpretations of classic tunes and wild scat-singing that never seemed to find the right beat.  Even a move to the ABC label for her 1960 album The Modern Sound of Betty Carter did little to help that.   She needed a break, and it came in the form of Ray Charles.

Ray Charles, on a recommendation from Miles Davis, agreed to take Betty on tour with him in the late 1950s.  Enchanted by her voice and looking for a partner to record a series of duets, he enlisted Ms. Carter in a project that became Ray Charles and Betty Carter.   The album, recorded in 1961, became an instant critical and popular smash; the single Baby It's Cold Outside gave Betty her first introduction into the popular music scene (indeed, at the 1997 White House ceremony where President Clinton presented Ms. Carter with a National Medal of Arts, the President said, "Hearing her sing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' makes you want to curl up in front of the fire, even in summertime.").  The sessions took on almost legendary status; after fifteen years in the business, fame had found Betty Carter. More. . .

Carter died on September 26, 1998