A delightful and sassy singer, Carol Leigh has helped keep classic jazz, Dixieland, and swing alive through her spirited performances. Leigh grew up listening to jazz from her two older brothers' record collections and on the radio. When she was 16, she saw the bands of Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey in person, which made a big impression. She had regular office jobs for several years and married trombonist James Leigh in 1953. By 1958 when her husband began teaching at San Francisco State College, she began to sing professionally. Leigh started with pianist-trombonist Alan Hall's band, had a period when she sang six nights a week at a Roaring '20s San Francisco nightclub called the Hotsy Totsy, and had opportunities to sing with Wingy Manone, Slim Gaillard, Wellman Braud, and Pops Foster. Leigh worked at a wide variety of musical jobs throughout the '60s, sometimes singing contemporary material.
Carol Leigh divorced James Leigh in 1973, marrying saxophonist Russ Whitman four years later. In 1973 she sat in with the Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band and, by the following year, was working at many festivals with the group in the East and Midwest. Because the musicians live in several parts of the country, they do not work together all that often, but Leigh is usually part of their reunions and their recordings.
In addition to her work with the Original Salty Dogs, Leigh sang with Turk Murphy (1979-1981), Wild Bill Davison, Dick Wellstood, James Dapogny, Neville Dickie, the Hall Brothers Jazz Band, the Climax Jazz Band in Canada, the Black Eagles, and Japan's New Orleans Rascals. She has recorded mostly for Stomp Off and GHB, and on a duet set with pianist James Dapogny, with If You Don't, I Know Who Will, being one of her finest sessions.