b. Maude Runnels, 17 November 1934, Natchez, Mississippi, USA, d. 22 July 2002, Bray, Berkshire, England. Montgomery quit school to sing on television in Atlanta, Georgia. After working in advertising and publishing, performing in plays and singing in strip joints and jazz clubs, she became an established cabaret performer. Montgomery was signed to Capitol Records after Peggy Lee heard her demo tape, and she recorded three albums for the label. She moved to the UK in 1965 to sing at a new London club, the Cool Elephant, with John Dankworth’s band. That same year she married composer and musical director Laurie Holloway and began to establish herself on the London club scene, equally at home at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club as she was on the less demanding cabaret circuit.
Possessing a voice that was once likened to ‘having a long, cool glass of mint julep on a Savannah balcony’, she expanded her career with a starring role in the 1969 West End revival of Anything Goes, and frequent appearances on radio and television, as well as concerts and cabaret in the UK and abroad. Her one-woman show was televised by the BBC in 1975. Besides her musical association with Holloway, she successfully collaborated with classical composer/pianist Richard Rodney Bennett on several projects, including Puttin’ On The Ritz, Surprise Surprise andTown And Country. With an instantly recognizable, relaxed and intimate style, Montgomery became one of a handful of American artists to take up permanent residence in the UK. She lost her long battle against cancer contracted from passive smoking in July 2002.