Considered one of the finest singers of the golden age of jazz, Ivie Anderson was a fluent vocalist who impressed many with her blues and scat phrasings. Most impressed was Duke Ellington, who kept her on as vocalist for eleven years and is thought to be the best singer he ever had.
Born in California, young Ivie received vocal training at her local St. Mary's Convent and later spent two years studying with Sara Ritt in Washington, DC. Returning home she found work with Curtis Mosby, Paul Howard, Sonny Clay, and briefly with Anson Weeks at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in Los Angeles. She also found work in vaudeville, touring the country as a dancer and vocalist in the Fanchon and Marco revue, starring Mamie Smith, and with the Shuffle Along revue. She was featured vocalist at the Culver City Cotton Club before leaving to tour Australia in 1928 with Sonny Clay. Returning after five months down under she organized her own show and toured the U.S. In 1930 she found work with Earl Hines.It was while appearing with Hines that Ellington first heard her sing. He hired her in February 1931, and she quickly became a fixture of the orchestra's sound.
“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,” (1938) “At a Dixie Road Diner,” (1940) and “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” (1941).