William P Gottlieb was a music journalist and photographer whose byline appeared in The Washington Post, Downbeat and Record Changer from 1938-1948. He taught himself to use a speed graphic camera and began to shoot musicians to illustrate his articles. The Library purchased his collection in 1995 and scanned all his prints and negatives, now available in the William P. Gottlieb digital collection. His images entered the public domain in 2010. Here are a dozen memorable Gottlieb images in jazz and pop to celebrate Women’s History Month:
Mildred Bailey (1907–1951) achieved success singing pop songs and early jazz tunes in the late 1920s and 1930s. Bailey, part American Indian, was married to vibraphonist and bandleader Red Norvo during the 1930s; they were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Swing.”
Ethel Waters (1896–1977) emerged from vaudeville and the recording studios to become a leading stage and screen star. Adept in jazz and blues, she turned to gospel in later years and toured with Billy Graham’s revivals.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996) joined Chick Webb’s band in her teens and scored a national hit with “A-Tisket-A-Tasket,” which she co-wrote. This photo captures Fitzgerald at the Downbeat Club in New York in the late 1940s with an adoring Dizzy Gillespie making goo-goo eyes at her. It also shows her husband at the time, bassist Ray Brown, behind her.
Billie Holiday (1915–1959) made her first records as a teenager, toured with Count Basie and Artie Shaw and recorded with Benny Goodman. Her sessions with Teddy Wilson and Lester Young set a high standard for all jazz singers who followed her, and her recording of “Strange Fruit” is considered an anthem for civil rights. This may be the single best-known image in the Gottlieb Collection.
Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) was an important and influential pianist, composer and arranger who wrote for big bands and recorded more than 100 albums. Her New York City apartment became a salon for modernist younger musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Tadd Dameron and others. Here she is joined by Imogene Coca and Ann Hathaway.
Bassist Vivien Garry (1920-2008) led both a quintet and a trio and often worked on 52nd Street with her husband, guitarist Arv Garrison. Her best known tune is the proto-feminist anthem “A Woman’s Place Is in The Groove.”
Doris Day (1922) started as a big band singer with Les Brown’s Band and later became a highly regarded actress in films by Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Curtiz and various light comedies. At 96, she’s the only one of these women still alive.
June Christy (1925-1990) epitomized the foggy, breathy cool sound that became quite popular in the 40s and 50s. She met, married and traveled with saxophonist Bob Cooper while both were in the Stan Kenton Orchestra.
Lena Horne (1917-2010) was a singer, dancer, actress, civil rights activist and rare beauty who worked in recording studios, Hollywood film and television.
Jo Stafford (2017-2008) began her career singing with The Pied Pipers and Tommy Dorsey, and enjoyed a long career singing popular songs, big band arrangements, country classics and folk songs, often backed by her husband Paul Weston.
Lois DeFee (1918-2012), aka as “Queen of the Amazons,” was a top Burlesque star who at 6’4” started out as a bouncer in various jazz clubs, including Dizzy’s, Club Nocturne and Leon & Eddies.