Betty Farmer

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b. 15 October 1938, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 11 September 2001, New York City, New York, USA. Farmer began singing as a child and first worked professionally in her mid-teens with dixieland bands…
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b. 15 October 1938, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 11 September 2001, New York City, New York, USA. Farmer began singing as a child and first worked professionally in her mid-teens with dixieland bands in her home town, including that led by Ronnie DuPont. This was at the Bistro Club, and she later appeared at Al Hirt’s club where she was heard by Duke Ellington who invited her to tour with him. She declined to go on the road with the band, but reportedly sang with Ellington’s band at Carnegie Hall in 1972. Settling in Denver, Colorado, she sang at Garbo’s, The Bombay Club, and opened her own club, Bryant St. West. She also worked in other parts of the country, singing at clubs and festivals, including the Monterey Jazz Festival and Newport Jazz Festival, as well as those at San Diego and Sacramento where she sang with the Bob Craven Summit Ridge Jazz Band. In Colorado, she worked extensively with local and visiting musicians, including an appearance in the early 80s in Grand Junction with Phil Urso and Swedish drummer Bert Dahlander. This club date was informally recorded, thus providing a rare opportunity to hear Farmer. In 1996, she moved to New York City, taking a job with Showtime Entertainment. She continued to perform, singing at clubs in the city. She was also studying guitar and was rehearsing an act with actor-comedian David Jung. In August 2001, Farmer joined a bond trading company, Cantor Fitzgerald, as an executive assistant. Three weeks later, she was working in the company’s offices on the 105th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by a terrorist attack. Farmer was one of the estimated 700 Cantor Fitzgerald employees presumed dead.

Fellow performers and critics alike praised Farmer’s strong personality and onstage presence. On the evidence of her recording with Dahlander, she had a husky contralto, a tough-edged way with a lyric and a pleasing use of a controlled vibrato. Farmer’s decision to spend the central years of her life in Colorado contributed to the fact that she was far less known to jazz audiences than was her due.