Born in Gilroy California, Anderson had already enjoyed some time in the spotlight when Duke Ellington hired her in 1931. Having proven her audience appeal as a Cotton Club chorus girl Anderson had spent a year with Earl Hines and His Orchestra in Chicago before catching Ellington’s ear and eye.
“The Voice of Ellington,” the beautiful and stylish Anderson, was with the bandleader for eleven years, a term longer than any other of his vocalists. With a relaxed style, light tone and superb diction she would competently perform blues, ballads, and novelty songs with both enthusiasm and ease. “It Don’t Mean a Thing” was the first of her many recording hits with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra which include: “I’m Satisfied” (1933), “Cotton” (1935), “Isn’t Love the Strangest Thing?” (1936), “Love Is Like a Cigarette” (1936), “There’s a Lull in My Life” (1937), “All God’s Children Got Rhythm” (1937), “If You Were in My Place (What Would You Do?)” (1938), “At a Dixie Road Diner” (1940), and “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” (1941).
In 1942, she left the band to open her own Chicken Shack restaurant in Los Angeles. Her retirement from the music business was, at least in part, due to chronic asthma, a condition that brought about her early death.
-- Jeremy Wilson
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com