|Birth: ||Mar. 12, 1924|
|Death: ||Jun. 16, 2000|
Born Beatrice Carter, singer, stage name Betty Barclay.The big band years were as good as gone by the time 1946 began, but you wouldn't have guessed it by the way that the Sammy Kaye orchestra opened the year with a blockbuster hit called "I'm A Big Girl Now" with a fine vocal by Betty Barclay which went all the way to number one.
Posted on Wed, Apr. 06, 2011
She was a big girl ... way back when
BY ED GRISAMORE
When he was a child, Rodney Selman received a white envelope every Christmas with $5 inside.
It was a gift from his great aunt, who lived in Miami. Her name was Beatrice Carter. He called her Aunt Bea.
He never knew her well. She was one of those long-distance relatives who would pop in and out of his life at irregular intervals.
She was the half-sister of his grandfather, Julian Carter. His mother, Delores, would tell him stories about how Aunt Bea was once a professional singer. Her career had ended about 1953, a couple of years before he was born.
But not before she made it big with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, under her stage name, Betty Barclay. By the time she began her solo career, she already had a star on her dressing room door.
Rodney never pieced together her story until after she died on a June day 11 years ago.
Family and friends gathered at her funeral to offer condolences and share remembrances. Those recollections helped bring part of her back to life, even in her death.
There had been a chest stored away in his grandfather's attic. It was later moved to a crawl space. Rodney's curiosity had taken a peek inside a few times.
The chest contained the loose pieces of her past, a giant jigsaw of photographs, faded magazine articles and yellowed newspaper clippings.
He asked his grandfather about it, and got permission from her son, Tony Dispirito, to borrow it. His jaw would drop every time he turned another page of her life.
It was 65 years ago this week when "I'm A Big Girl Now" was released with her singing vocals with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra. The song would reach the top of the Billboard charts.
Other memorable recordings would follow, including eight songs with Sammy Kaye and six as a solo artist.
"I'm A Big Girl Now" was the only No. 1 she ever had, and it became her signature song.
On her headstone at Evergreen Cemetery, off Houston Avenue, is the inscription: "She's a Big Angel Now."
You won't find the name Betty Barclay in many conversations about Macon's rich musical heritage. She is virtually unknown in her hometown.
There is no street or plaza named in her honor. She has never been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and there is barely a mention of her in the archives.
No respect? In her 103-word obituary in The Telegraph, her stage name was misspelled as "Betty Barkley."
Rodney, an engineer at Robins Air Force Base, has spent the past several years doing research on his great-aunt. She was not the kind of musical celebrity that can be easily Googled. He has worked to compile her story between the covers of a three-ring binder.
"I want to be able to put something on the shelf at the music hall of fame for her to be part of the history," he said. "She was very humble. You never would have heard any of this from her. I regret I never really got to talk to her about it. When her career was over, she never sang another note, not even in church."
He has reconstructed details of her life as best he can. She was born in Tennille in Washington County on March 12, 1924. When her family was disrupted, she and her siblings were placed in an orphanage in Macon.
In high school, she worked as a sales girl behind the music counter at a local department store, studied classical music, took piano and voice lessons and sang with the glee club at Miller High School for Girls.
She got her start when she volunteered to sing with a band at Camp Wheeler during World War II. Following her performances, the soldiers would send her corsages to show their appreciation.
She later went on tour with the band, playing at USO clubs, and was hired for a two-week stint in New Orleans with renowned big band leader Al Donahue.
In 1945, she sang with Garwood Van's orchestra at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, then auditioned for Kaye at the Astor Roof in Times Square.
It was Kaye who suggested the alternative stage name of Betty Barclay, in keeping with other singers such as Nancy Norman and Mary Marlowe.
Barclay appeared twice with Kaye in concerts at the Macon City Auditorium, a year apart in January 1946 and '47. Three months after her first hometown concert, "I'm A Big Girl Now" vaulted her to the top of the charts. That same year, she recorded "Put Your Little Right Foot Out" with Billy Williams.
Music soon made the transition away from the big band dominance. Led by the emergence of singers such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Lena Horne, vocal performers began to take center stage.
Barclay made the move with them. But after her marriage, the birth of her son and the launching of her solo career, it was only a matter of time before she was on the sidelines forever.
Rodney said his aunt settled in Miami after her singing career was over, later living in Orlando, Fla., South Carolina and Idaho before returning to Macon in her final years.
"She came full circle," he said.
Eddie Belle Carter (1892 - 1945)
Cora Belle Carter Kemper (1912 - 1996)*
Julilan David Carter (1913 - 2007)*
Beatrice Carter Johnson (1924 - 2000)
Plot: Section J, Plot- 29/30
Created by: Popeye
Record added: Apr 10, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 68182315