Betty Smith, 6 July 1929 – 21 Jan 2011

January 30, 2011 at 12:03 am (jazz, Jim D, women)

“It was rare to find a woman jazz musician in the Fifties. Even more rare to find one who played hotter jazz than her colleagues. The tenor saxophonist Betty Smith was one such” – Steve Voce in The Independent (28th  Jan). The rest here.


Above: Betty with her Quintet

Smith: 'I would have been a trombonist but my arms were too short'

Betty was a great tenor player in the Bud Freeman/Eddie Miller tradition (and also a pretty good singer). The only other female instrumentalist (another sax player, as it happened)  of any significance on the British jazz scene of the 50’s and 60’s was Kathy Stobart with Humph’s band.

There has been (to the best of my knowledge) no serious study of women in jazz since Sally Placksin’s 1982 book ‘American Women In Jazz’, and that (as is obvious from the title) didn’t deal with jazz women in Europe or the UK. The time is ripe for further study and recognition.

Anyway, here’s Betty guesting with the Ted Easton Band (Bobby Hackett also present and playing a nice cornet obligatto behind Betty’s vocal), in 1973:


  1. BETTY SMITH (1929-2011) | JAZZ LIVES said,

    […] SOCIALIST — a good friend although we’ve never met.  Here’s his posting — and the obituary written for THE INDEPENDENT by Steve Voce, someone who knew and loved the […]

  2. jim denham said,

    I notice (from Steve Voce’s obit in the ‘Independent’) that Betty did a stint in the Ivy Benson Orchestra: high time that “all-girl” band was given proper recognition. It was the starting-point for just about every serious female jazz player in Britian right up to Annie Whitehead.

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