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 Page.