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Billy Tipton

Billy Tipton was a jazz musician who achieved only modest regional success in the 40's and 50's.
His career included live radio shows with Big Bands and evolved into jazz quartets and trios
playing in night clubs. In his 74 years, in addition to being a band leader and a booking agent,
he was a husband 5 times and adopted three children. After he died in 1989 in Spokane,
a coroner revealed that he was much more, and the mysterious story ran wild on the
wire services: Billy Tipton was a woman.

It seems that Tipton's decision to adopt a male disguise was likely motivated, at least at first,
by practical reasons: It was the depression, people were desperate for work, and it was
especially difficult for women to get work playing in jazz bands. So, at 19, Dorothy Tipton began
cross-dressing to get a job in a band. She cut her hair, put on men's clothing, bound her breasts
and re-christened herself Billy Tipton, eventually fooling 5 wives and the world for more than
50 years. Tipton left no letters of explanation, so we can only speculate on what drove him,
but we can learn much of what there is to know from a biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook
called "Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton."

Recordings this page
Photos & The Book
Clippings (after death)
Clippings (before death)
Songs About Billy


"Sweet Georgia Brown"
Topps LP 1522, circa 1955

 what is this thing called love
 sweet georgia brown
 don't blame me
 begin the beguine
 sit right down and write myself a letter
 september in the rain
 bernie's tune
 take the "A" train
 under a bucket of love
 the man i love
 willow weep for me

Click on a song title to hear it;
or on the to download a MP3 song file

 "Billy Tipton Plays Hi-Fi On Piano"
Topps LP 1534, circa 1956

 can't help lovin' dat man
 these foolish things
 what'll i do
 the world is waiting for the sunrise
 you go to my head
 christopher columbus
 begin the beguine
 if i had you
 blue skies
 stars fell on alabama

Given what we know now, the liner notes are amusing

I have found clippings of the LPs being advertised, from 1957 and 1958

and I've read on another site that they sold about 17,000,
though the source was not documented