Betty Roche’s recording of "Take the A Train" with the Duke
Ellington Orchestra in 1952 has remained one of the most
famous and enduring of Ellington's recordings, and the song
with which she is associated.
Born Mary Elizabeth Roche in Wilmington, Delaware on
Jan. 9, 1920, she began her career
by winning a talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem
when she was 17. This led eventually to her joining the
Savoy Sultans, the resident band at the Savoy Ballroom, in
1941. Typifying the episodic nature of Roche's career, the
band broke up soon after she joined it. She made her first
record on the band's last recording session, a song called
"At's In There." She also sang briefly for bands led by the
tenor sax player Lester Young and trumpeter Hot Lips
She traveled to Hollywood in 1942 with the Ellington band to
make the film Reveille With Beverly (also featuring Frank
Sinatra and the Count Basie and Bob Crosby bands).
Roche was to sing "Take the A Train"