Artist Profiles - Vocalist Betty Carter

Betty Carter was a jazz singer known for her improvisational technique, scatting abilities, and other complex musical abilities that demonstrated her vocal talent and imaginative interpretation of lyrics and melodies.

Carter was born Lillie Mae Jones on May 16, 1930, in Flint, Michigan and grew up in Detroit. She won a talent show at Detroit’s Paradise Theater in 1946 and while still in high school, sat in on gigs with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and other bebop musicians visiting Detroit. Carter toured with Lionel Hampton’s band from 1948-51, Miles Davis in 1960 and Ray Charles from 1960-63.

In 1969, Carter began to work with her own trio and founded her own record company, Bet-Car Productions. During the mid 70's, Carter appeared in Howard Moore’s musical Don’t Call Me Man, toured through Europe, South America and the United States and performed at the Newport Jazz Festival.

Carter earned Grammy nominations for the albums The Audience With Betty Carter and Whatever Happened to Love?, while winning the Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female for Look What I Got! in 1988.

Carter continued to perform, tour, and record, as well as search for new talent until she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 1998. Betty Carter died on September 26, 1998, at the age of 69.