Betty Sattley

b. c.1920, Illinois, USA. As a child living in a small Midwest town, Sattley had one music lesson each week from a teacher who toured country schools. She first played the C-melody saxophone, telling…
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Artist Biography

b. c.1920, Illinois, USA. As a child living in a small Midwest town, Sattley had one music lesson each week from a teacher who toured country schools. She first played the C-melody saxophone, telling jazz writer Sally Placksin that she really wanted to play the xylophone but could not pronounce the word properly and so her father thought she wanted a saxophone. Before she was 10 years old, her father formed a band featuring his four daughters and they played weekend dance dates in the surrounding area. Already a jazz fan thanks to hearing records by musicians such as Chu Berry, at the age of 13 she played in New York in an all-girl band and then, in 1935, was hired by the Ina Ray Hutton band.

By now playing tenor saxophone, Sattley performed with the band for a year, then spent a time gigging in New York before rejoining Hutton. By now, Eddie Durham was arranging for the band and he made a point of featuring Sattley because he was so enamoured of her improvisational skills. In 1939, when the band was already breaking up, Sattley quit to marry Charlie Leeds, then tenor saxophonist with Louis Prima. With the outbreak of World War II Leeds was drafted and she replaced him in the Prima band. Later, she led her own small band in a 52nd Street club, regularly sitting in at jam sessions. For a while, she played in a band led by another Hutton alumnus, trumpeter Estelle Slavin, but when Sattley’s husband returned from military service she gradually eased out of the music business, had a second child, and in 1960 finally quit.