WHO IS SHE?

These photographs — by the esteemed photographer Otto F. Hess — just emerged on eBay (in my favorite evening-browsing pasture, Entertainment Memorabilia).  I know that there were women reed players — in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm — but this young woman with a clarinet in a Benny-pose is not someone I recognize.  And, in the second photograph, I don’t have any idea about the bassist and guitarist.  My knowledge of obscure musicians is of course imperfect, but I wonder if this concert or performance was done somewhere besides New York City.  Any suggestions? 

That’s the trio.  Here’s the back of one of the photographs:

And here she is, assuming the famous posture of jazz ecstasy:

And I seriously  doubt that this young woman is Anat Cohen!

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7 responses to “WHO IS SHE?

  1. A prior incarnation of Aurelie Tropez?

  2. I believe the clarinetist may be Betty Sticht. She played, toured and recorded with the Ina Ray Hutton’s Melodear Orchestra from 1934 through 1939 when the group disbanded. All the woodwind players in Hutton’s band doubled on saxophone and clarinet.

    I researched, created and taught a course about women musicians, jazz and classical, at Berklee College of Music for several years. Now I present biographies of women instrumentalists on my website, a Featured Woman on the main site, and previously featured women in my Archives.

    Several years ago, a woman whose mother in law played with Hutton’s band sent me publicity photos of several band members, one of whom is Betty Sticht. The publicity photos are head shots facing the camera. Your photo is more of a profile, so it’s difficult to be sure. But I believe it is Sticht in your photo. Also I found an obituary for her husband, indicating he died in Grand Isle, NY … she predeceased him in 1985.

    Have you tried to identify the two male musicians in the photo?

  3. Thanks for the fascinating information, Susan! Do you have a sense of when the photographs were taken? I thought they were later than the late Thirties, and that the woman clarinetist was quite young, but those are only speculations on my part. And the two male players are as mysterious as the late Ms. Sticht. Cheers and thanks, Michael Steinman

  4. I too believe the photos were taken after the late Thirties … perhaps after the Hutton band broke up Betty Sticht found work with other groups, like the one in your photo. Since she appeared to have settled somewhere near NYC, it’s possible she was working there prior to her marriage.

    As for when the photos were taken, I’d guess early Forties. A bit of sleuthing on the players’ attire might be instructive. The obit I found for her husband said they were married 42 years … since she died in 1985 I’m assuming they were married in 1943 or thereabouts. Sadly, back in those days it was rare for women musicians to continue their careers after marriage.

  5. The mystery-woman clarinet-player in the two photographs recently posted is Ann DuPont, born Ann Bata in Universal, Pennsylvania, and raised in Florida. She began studying clarinet (and violin) at age nine and then played with bands in Florida and Louisiana (according to a brief piece in the July, 1939 issue of Downbeat), “absorbing the best jazz ideas from old masters.”
    By the summer of ’39, with clarinetists Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman co-reigning over the kingdom of swing, Ann DuPont – described in the trades as “single, tall, auburn-haired” and billed by promoters as “Queen of the Clarinet” and “the female Artie Shaw” – had formed her own band with thirteen male musicians (called, perhaps not to alarm the superstitious, “Ann DuPont and her 12 Men of Music”) and was working hotels, clubs and one-nighters in and around New York. Downbeat praised her “wild, uninhibited style” and welcomed the presence of “a femme who plays good clarinet, and has looks to go with it … fronting a band that kicks.”
    Ann sang with the band, too, it seems, which (with her reddish hair) would seem to have made her more “the female Woody Herman.” A 1943 profile in Billboard noted that she’d received an honorary “Doctorate of Solid Jive” from the College of the City of New York: “an honor matched only by Benny Goodman.” By ’43, Ms. DuPont had dispersed the big-band and was working with an all-male trio of piano, bass and guitar (the combo pictured in those Otto F. Hess photos?).
    A bit of her wild, uninhibited playing can be heard (http://wwwvocalgroupharmony.com/BelBotm.htm) on “Oh Daddy, Please Bring That Suitcase In,” a 1945 78 by The Four Blues, an African-American vocal group somewhat in the style of the Golden Gate Quartet.
    Ann DuPont and her Rhythm Men played to good crowds in concerts on the lawn of the Congress Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, during World War II. That’s where Ann met her future husband, a Navy lieutenant she wed in 1945 and moved with to Ohio (according to information supplied by her nephew and found at: http://nfo.net/usa/d3.html). She played locally in the Buckeye State before becoming a successful real-estate salesperson – a capable, multi-talented woman who also “literally built two homes with her own hands.” Lest we forget: Half “the greatest generation” was female.
    Hail to Ann DuPont, Queen of the Clarinet!

  6. Wow, I’m so happy to learn something definitive about this woman clarinetist! I shall add Ann Bata [DuPont] to my ever growing list of outstanding women musicians! Thanks, Tom.

  7. Denny Farrell
    Big Band Hall of Fame Announcer
    Wonderful site

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