Written by from NPR
On this episode of Piano Jazz, vocalist Betty Buckley and her musical director, Kenny Werner, join Marian McPartland in a session recorded in 2007.
Betty Lynn Buckley was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1947. Her singing career began at age 2 in church and dance lessons soon followed. She was raised on the music of Judy Garland and Della Reese, and became a musical theater devotee after seeing The Pajama Game. As a teenager, Buckley performed regularly — her first professional gig was a local production of Gypsy when she was 15. She continued to cut her musical teeth in summer theater groups and musical revues at the Six Flags Over Texas theme park.
In college, Buckley was runner-up in the Miss Texas competition, where she was spotted by a talent agent who convinced the 22-year-old to come to New York. Buckley landed her first gig almost immediately upon arriving. She played the role of Martha Jefferson in the musical 1776, which led her to other productions on and off Broadway.
Her most popular role came as Grizabella in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, in which she sang the enduring number “Memory.” The performance earned her a Tony in 1982. Buckley went on to perform in Sunset Boulevard, Carrie: The Musical, and Triumph of Love to name a few.
Her success on the stage has led to appearances in several films, including Woody Allen’s Another Woman, Roman Polanski’s Frantic and Brian De Palma’s 1976 Carrie.
Buckley has also starred on the small screen as Abby in the television series Eight Is Enough. Buckley had a recurring role on HBO’s gritty prison drama Oz and guest starred in episodes of Monk, Law & Order: SVU, Melrose Place and Pretty Little Liars.
She has recorded 15 solo albums and appears on several original cast recordings. Her forthcoming album Ghostlight, produced by T-Bone Burnett, will be released in 2014.
Originally recorded April 10, 2007.