Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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ROCHÉ, Betty

(b Mary Elizabeth Roché, 9 January 1920, Wilmington DE; d 16 February 1999) Singer. She grew up in Atlantic City and NYC, winning an amateur contest at Harlem's Apollo Theater at age 17. She joined Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans, making her first record with them on what turned out to be their last session, in December 1941. She met Duke Ellington in Chicago as Ivie Anderson was getting ready to leave the band, worked with Duke from '42-4 (during the musicians' union's recording ban), first to perform 'The Blues' in Black, Brown And Beige (at Carnegie Hall, January 1943). She worked for Earl Hines briefly '44; rejoined Ellington late '51-4, then worked mainly in California as a solo act. She is best known for her extended scat introduction to 'Take The ''A'' Train' on Ellington Uptown '52. Albums: Take The 'A' Train '56 on Bethlehem; Singin' And Swingin' '60 and Lightly And Politely '61, both on Prestige (now on OJC). The first of the Prestige albums is said to be her best, sidemen included Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Forrest, standout tracks 'Until The Real Thing Comes Along', 'Blue Moon' and 'Where Or When', the latter including a famous laugh, a harsh HA HA! (which she regretted because audiences insisted she do the song exactly as on the record).