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This article is about Baby Esther Lee Jones. Not to be confused with Little Esther Phillips. See Gertrude Saunders for the originator of Boop-Boop-a-Doop. You can check out a scat-singing timeline here. Baby Esther was not the "model" for the Betty Boop character, actress Clara Bow[1] the "It-Girl" was.

Footage[2] of Jones scatting and baby-talk singing and other evidence given in court is what helped Justice Edward J. McGoldrick rule in favor of the Fleischer Studios. Which was that Helen Kane's singing style was most common to a number of "Boop-a-Doopers" even before Helen had claimed she had invented the idea and mannerisms.

Little Esther Lee Jones

Baby Esther Lee Jones

Baby Esther
Baby Esther Helen Kane Jones LOL Taken in 1929

Name

Esther Jones
Baby Ester
Little Ester
Bay Esther
Lil' Esther
Farina's Kid Sister
Baby Esther Lee Jones
Little Esther
Little Esta
Little Hester
Little Lester
Child Wonder
Child Prodigy
Miniature Florence Mills
Miniature Josephine Baker
The Black Baby
Black Mistinguett
Sepia Dancing Doll

Baby Esther Little Esther 1931

Name

 (Esther Jones' 1931 Rio de Janeiro promotion in Brazil. Wearing hoop earrings, and a fruit basket hat similar to the famous Carmen Miranda.[3] This was before Miranda was known.)

Little Esther Jones Baby Esther Jones Fleischer Studios Betty Boop

Name

 (Acrobat, jazz singer and dancer, Esther Jones. Her 1928 MGM film short "Little Esther" is lost. A copy was last owned by the Fleischer Studios and Paramount Pictures.)

14 Year Old Baby Esther Jones in 1930 (Betty Boop Wikia)

Name

 (This photo was discovered by the "Betty Boop Wikia Fandom," and is a photo that was taken in 1930. The news archive stated that Jones is "14-years-old" here.)

Baby Esther Lee Jones[4] originally billed (Lil' Little Esther)[5] was a child entertainer who lived in Chicago, Illinois.

She sang many "Boop" songs, and is considered to be a one of the many child "Boop-Boop-Be-Doop" girls. Jones started her career as a Florence Mills impersonator,[6] Mills was best known for her role in the musical Shuffle Along.

Her father William Jones, mother Gertrude Jones, aunt Ruth Jones, and later Sidney Garner oversaw her. Esther was a dancer and acrobat since 1923, as well as a talented scat vocalist who had been singing since 1925. In the early 1920s, Jones performed frequently in nightclubs in Harlem and across the country. The white press gave her positive reviews and predicted that one day, she would become the next Florence Mills.

During the 1920s Baby Esther performed in Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Jackson, Michigan, Toronto, Ontario, Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Union City and New Jersey. In her act Baby Esther would dance, make funny faces, roll her eyes and interpolated words such as "Boo-Boo-Boo", "Wha-Da-Da", "Doo-Doo-Doo"[7] & "Do-Do-De-Do-Ho-De-Wa-Da-De-Da," "Boo-Did-Do-Doo," "Lo-Di-De-Do," and would finish off her unique scatting routine with a "De-Do" in rhythm. A majority of these scat techniques were taught to Esther by her manager at the time Lou Bolton.

Jones appeared in Paul Ash's 1926 musical revue in Chicago as a dancer, as did the "original" baby-talk girl discovered by Ash, Peggy Bernier, along with her husband Milton Watson. Ash also discovered stars such as Bernier, Helen Kane, Ruth Etting, Paul Whiteman, Rudy Wiedoeft and Ginger Rogers.

Because white people killed and burned Black people, Jones said that she did not tour in Texas or Alabama. In 1932, she declared that she had avoided their fury thus far by avoiding the South.

Bolton claimed that in Chicago he taught Esther how to interpolate "scat singing"[8] between the bars of music in popular songs.[9] Other scat sounds Esther used to interpolate include "Roop-Woop-a-Woop," "Ud-Up-Deo-Do," "Skeet Scat," "Bup-Bup," "Poo-Poo-a-Doo" long before Helen Kane.

"Roop-Woop-a-Woop" was one of Esther Jones' several scat interpolations; it has a similar tone to Helen Kane's "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" performance, which Kane debuted that year.[10]

History claims that Helen Kane had modified[11] Jones' "Boops" to increase Her notoriety. Kane was said to have used the scat sounds she'd heard Jones interpolate to create "Poop Poop Padoop," first utilizing it in the Broadway musical Good Boy, where she did so to create the hit song "I Wanna Be Loved By You," which instantly made Kane famous.

This is demonstrated by Kane's first two albums, "That's My Weakness Now" and "Get Out and Get Under the Moon," in which her "Boops" are completely different. There are no "Boops" or "Poops" in Kane's original recording of "That's My Weakness Now".

Kane attempted to sue the Fleischer Studios, but her claims that he invented the scat lyrics were refuted when an early test sound film with Baby Esther performing in this distinctive way was found. In 1928, Bolton, Baby Esther's former manager, testified that he had seen Baby Esther's cabaret act at the "Everglades Nite Club" with Tony Shayne and Helen Kane.

Shortly afterward, Kane began to scat sing in shows.

Supreme Court Judge Edward J. McGoldrick ruled: "The plaintiff has failed to sustain either cause of action by proof of sufficient probative force." In his opinion, the "baby" technique and "scat" style of singing did not originate with Kane.

Little Ann Little, Margie Hines, Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe were then focused on in the second part of the trial. Helen attempted to prove that they performed their vocal shimmies in a way so similar to her that it constituted unfair competition.

A "Tooty-Tooty-Too" was reportedly added by Florence Mills to her song "Baby and Me" years earlier. Jones performed a variety of acts at the Everglades, including singing Florence Mills' best-known songs, dancing, and Jones frequently uttered her own trademark "Do-Do-De-Do-Ho-De-Wa-Da" scat singing technique, which is rumored to have come from other Black performers. In court, dancer Miriam Luber backed up these claims.[12]

The great Florence Mills[13] was emulating Gertrude Saunders.

In addition to partially copying Helen Kane, Max Fleischer was also emulating a prevailing 1920s perception of women when he promoted Betty Boop, a character created by Grim Natwick. The phraseology "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" was not invented by Helen Kane, although she undoubtedly popularized it.

Esther Jones was most popular in European countries such as France especially Paris, Sweden, Germany and Spain. Also the capital of London, Brazil and South America. Shamus Culhane best known for his work on the early Betty Boop cartoons references Esther Jones in his 1986 book Talking Animals and Other People which states "under careful cross-examination Kane had to admit that she, in turn had copied the 'Boop-Boop-a-Doop' business from an obscure black singer Baby Esther." [14]

In recent years, Wikipedia has made certain inaccurate assertions or falsified evidence, about the Fleischers of the past and present, claiming that the Fleischer Studios fabricated the "Baby Esther" narrative.

Since the 1930s, mainstream media has been aware that "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" has Black origins, and that "Baby Esther" precedes Helen Kane in that genre of scatting as early as 1925. Anyone may write an entry on Wikipedia, therefore it appears that pseudologists have rewritten history. If someone were to look back in time or research the "Boop," they would discover that it has Black origins, which is why Kane lost in a court of law.

The Fleischers of the 1930s sent scouts to Harlem, where they discovered the source of the scat. The Fleischer Studios found that among the many sounds that African-American singers and composers invented was the "Boop".

African-American composer, singer, pianist, and song-writer Clarence Williams testified that Helen Kane did not create "Boop," and that he had invented the "Boop" in 1915.[15] Williams was quoted as saying, "Lack of further musical ideas, caused me to invent 'hot licks' in 1915, long before Miss Helen Kane thought up her Boops."

Louis Armstrong, another African-American jazz singer, was also known to have originated the "Boop," and he would frequently sing a "Boop-a-Doo, Boop-a-Doo, Boop-a-Doo" arpeggio. Armstrong later taught Cab Calloway how to scat in songs.

Though Armstrong is considered the "original scat singer," it was African-American women in the 1921 all-Black musical Shuffle Along that originally pioneered it in jazz.[16]

After returning from South America to America, Jones started a dancing troupe in Harlem. Her popularity on the vaudeville stage started to wane and she was referred to as being given applause with the "abandoned type of expression". She later got married, and gave up her previous name Jones, and eventually retired from show business.

In Richard Fleischer's 2005 book Out of the Inkwell he said that, "eventually a piece of sound film 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Shorts: Little Esther' made in 1928 was dredged up proving that a black nightclub singer Baby Esther was singing "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" long before Helen Kane."[17]

Jones was depicted by Widny Bazile as a Black Betty Boop in 2017, and Kyle Dion paid tribute to her. "Baby Esther"[18] is a song that Dion created specifically for Jones. As of 2021, Esther has been paid homage by Taraji P. Henson and Big Freedia.

In 2023, Jones was referenced in interviews on some of the Chicago news stations. When asked about vaudeville star "Baby Esther" by a Chicagoan news reporter, actress Jasmine Amy Rogers who starred as the new Betty Boop in Boop! replied by saying not to forget Jones and that the African-American community has to bring her forward.

As of December of 2023, the Fleischers talked about Jones in an interview.[19] They created a mini-documentary using recycled[20] information about Jones and also stated that singer "Helen Kane" was not the inspiration behind the creation of Betty Boop. The Fleischer Studios continue to maintain that "no one" served as Betty Boop's model.

Jones' name came up in a Black Betty Boop fiasco.

An official Black Betty Boop[21] was created by a Black businesswoman in collaboration with the Fleischer Studios. However, a conflict led to the project's termination early in 2024.[22] The argument and dispute was over the Fleischer Studios refusing to promote a "Black" version of Betty Boop, a Black Betty Boop, on the official Fleischer Studios or official Betty Boop website.

The Fleischers were accused of trying to improve Betty's reputation following the "Baby Esther Jones" PBS accusations. Mark Fleischer and the businesswoman, later argued over "Baby Esther" being the original Betty Boop. The businesswoman got her lawyer to remove herself from the Fleischer contract.

She believed that they no longer required her assistance in trying to enhance Betty's reputation because they had announced Jasmine Amy Rogers as a "Black Betty" for The Betty Boop Musical. She was upset at not receiving an invitation to the Pre-Broadway show's premiere.

Jones is referenced in "The Life and Times of Betty Boop,"[23] a 2024 book by acclaimed novelist Peter Benjaminson.

Quotes

  • Baby Esther Jones: "Of all of the countries I know, Spain has the richest cooking. It is making me fat and I am worried." (Madrid, 1929)
  • Baby Esther Jones: "I like sharks a lot." (Nederland, 1929)
  • Baby Esther Jones: "I love the Parisians." (Nederland, 1929)
  • Baby Esther Jones: "It's my mother! And I love her very much." (Nederland, 1929)
  • Baby Esther Jones: "I had so far escaped 'their wrath' by staying out of the South." (Brazil, 1932)
  • Lou Bolton: "She is known as Li'l Esther, Baby Esther." (New York Supreme Court, 1934)
  • Lou Bolton: "I was first introduced to Miss Kane at Tony Shayne's office, Broadway at 47th Street." (New York Supreme Court, 1934)
  • Lou Bolton: "Tony was the agent for Baby Esther in New York City." (New York Supreme Court, 1934)

Comix Book (1974)

Baby Esther by Leslie Cabarga

An early depiction of Esther Jones by Leslie Cabarga in "Fleischer Bros. Inc".


People were originally unable to identify Jones, and had no idea who she was. Nobody knew that Jones was a child performer until the "Betty Boop Wikia Fandom" identified her during the late 2010s. The Fleischer Studios website, took the information shared by the "Betty Boop Wikia Fandom" and shared Jones' real identity worldwide.

In addition to finding rare images of Jones, the "Betty Boop Wikia Fandom" also uncovered rare photos of Jones and her chronology by using archives. Most of the information from "1924 to 1979" and "REAL" photos of Jones were discovered by "Betty Boop Wikia Fandom" was later recycled by others.

Fleischer Studios (2021)

Fleischer Studios Tribute To Jazz Singers 1 2021

Esther Lee Jones is one of the several "scat singing" performers to be given tribute by the Fleischer Studios and official Betty Boop page in 2021. You can find out more by clicking "The Battle Over Booping" and following the link to the Fleischer Studios article.

Scat Sounds Originated by Jones

  • Boo-Boo-Boo
  • Doo-Doo-Doo
  • Roop-Woop-a-Woop
  • Wha-Da-Da
  • Wa-Da-Da
  • Whad-Da-Da-Da
  • Do-Do-De-Do-Ho
  • De-Wa-Da-De-Da
  • Boo-Did-Do-Doo
  • Lo-Di-De-Do
  • Skeet-Scat
  • De-Do
  • Ud-Up-Deo-Do
  • Bup-Bup
  • Poo-Poo-a-Doo

Baby Esther's Biography

Baby Esther Jones Black Betty Boop Josephine Baker

In 1929, Esther won a contract and toured the European continent.[24] While touring Europe she became famous, most promptly in Paris. After Paris, Esther went to Spain, Berlin, Oslo, Sweden, Milan and London. Her manager originally was Russian-American Lou Bolton, but he was fired in Paris for Jim Crowing the Jones family out of their rightful earnings. Esther's new Parisian manager Sydney Garner led her to success. Esther toured in Ernst Rolf's revue from 1929-1930. After touring Europe, Esther went to Brazil where she proved to be a hit, but later returned to America when Sydney Garner fell ill.

Cab Calloway and Baby Esther 1934

Once Esther returned to America, she became a dancer for Cab Calloway[25] and then toured the vaudeville circuit under the name "Little Esther the Sepia Dancing Doll."[26] She was also booked by The National in Helena Justa's revue called the Harlem Maniacs from 1933 to 1934.[27] Esther was also present in the United States while the Betty Boop suit was taking place, but she did not comment or respond to her name being brought up in the lawsuit, most likely to Lou Bolton having Jim Crowed her in Paris. In July of 1934, Esther took part in an all-black NAACAP benefit show. It stated that by then Esther had too much art and finesse, and that she was born of her extensive travel and contacts and that after her performance, applause usually followed the more abandoned type of expression. Esther is last referenced in September of 1934. It stated that Esther Jones did acrobatics at Bill "Bojangles" Robinson benefit show. It is stated that Esther became a full-time acrobat and continued to perform on the stage. But by late 1934, Esther's popularity died down and there were new black child performers on the scene taking the spotlight, such as the Kiddie Radio Group. Baby Hilda and Baby Selma succeeded Baby Esther. Baby Selma from Philadelphia was considered to be the next Florence Mills.

Official Betty Boop

Baby Esther Betty Boop Official
Booping Is Traced Back to Wha-Da-Da 1st of May 1934

The official Betty Boop acknowledges Baby Esther. Over the years, Esther has often been referenced on the official website as originator, when the Helen Kane lawsuit has been referenced. Esther is also referenced on the official Fleischer Studios website, in defense that Helen Kane's "scat singing" technique was not original which was proven in court.

Helen Kane Impersonator NOPE Actual Lawsuit Document Clipping

During the $250,000 Infringement Lawsuit Helen Kane's attorney Samuel Weltz claimed that the footage[28] of Baby Esther singing was irrelevant, incompetent and immaterial and stated that Esther Jones was a Helen Kane impersonator. He was denied by the court.

Lou Bolton and Little Esther Jones

Baby Esther Jones the Original Betty Boop Helen Kane Acrobat Jazz Singing Sensation aka Little Esther

Lou Bolton conducted a theatrical school in the City of Pittsburgh where he taught children and adults dancing, singing, dramatic art and anything pertaining to the show business in general. Lou had been engaged in the business in the city of Chicago since 1922 and had been in show business for 20 years. Bolton first met Little Esther in 1923, where he saw her performing at The Sunset Club in Chicago, Illinois. When Bolton became her manager she was a Charleston dancer and danced in the streets of Chicago. Lou gave footage to court of Esther performing her unique "Wa-Da-Da" technique. It was one of the many scat techniques used by Jones in which inspired Helen to scat sing in the first place. Esther's career took off one year later in 1929 when she was given a contract to tour Europe. In her prime Esther Jones was the highest paid child performer in the world.

Baby Esther Is A Real Dooper (1934)

1934

Helen Kane's Boop-Boop-a-Doop trial today went Booping back to the night clubs of 1928 and a little Negro girl, proclaimed as the original Dooper. It was Summer of 1928, Helen already has told Justice McGoldrick, that she pursed her lips first and "laid 'em in the aisles" with her initial Boop-Boop-a-Doop. That date is important in her $250,000 suit against Paramount Publix Corporation and the Fleischer Studios for imitating her in the Betty Boop animated cartoons. For Baby Esther, 8 year old girl, delivering many a Boop-Boop-a-Doop in New York months before according to the testimony of Lou Bolton, the child's manager. Bolton claimed that Helen had a ringside seat at the Everglades Club on Broadway one Winter's night when Baby Esther was Booping - that was before Helen's first Boop too. The defense, through Attorney Louis Phillips, also submitted testimony that Helen actually encouraged imitation. The article states that Helen Kane allowed Mae Questel, Margie Hines among numerous girls to imitate her.

Kylie Dion: Baby Esther (2017)

Kyle Dion Baby Esther

On the 4th of November a song titled "Baby Esther" was released by singer Kyle Dion. Child performer Baby Esther Lee Jones was played by Widny Bazile. Esther is depicted as an adult, as at that time most people thought that Esther was a woman who looked like Betty Boop.

Kyle_Dion_-_Baby_Esther_(MV)

Kyle Dion - Baby Esther (MV)


The song dubs Baby Esther a "Cabaret Queen" and references plagiarism. Esther was known to have performed at cabarets and night clubs, including the Moulin Rouge and all over the place most promptly Europe.


The song was produced by Joel Alexander Van & Mars Today with co-production by Nate Mercereau. The song was mixed by Erik Madrid and was mastered by Chris Gehringer.

Death

  • Internet speculation states that Esther Jones died in 1934. However that is untrue and is falsified information. A 1937 article, stated that Esther got married and her second name changed from Jones, making it hard to locate her later in life. other information from that article states that also she conducted a dance troupe in Harlem.

Gallery

Trivia

  • Baby Esther is said to have given a little tribute to Helen Kane in her lost Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer flicker. Esther personally did not sue Helen Kane. Jones was only used as "evidence" in court to prove that other singers had used the "scatting" gimmick prior to Kane.
  • Her father William Jones was a photographer and decorator.
  • William Jones was 60-years-old in 1928, making her father quite old. Another article claims that he might have been Esther's stepfather. 
  • Esther lived at 44 West 98th street.
  • Black Parisian Sydney Garner became Esther's new manager after Louis Bolton was fired. While Esther toured South America, Garner became ill, resulting with Esther and the family returning to Europe, stating they felt feeling homesick. 
  • Jo Otten who was born Johannes Franciscus, named his daughter (Alja) Alexandra Esther after Esther Jones. Esther Jones is referenced on several pages in Bed and World.  
  • When Esther became a hit and toured, sometimes her mother (Mrs. Gertrude Jones) accompanied her. 
  • She also had a grandmother Mrs. Jones and a sister Miss Jones, who like her mother were rarely named. 
  • Most archived news articles about Esther Jones got her age wrong. Sometimes they would state that she was one year younger, or a year older.
  • Esther's aunt Ruth Jones was her accompanist during her tour in South America. 
  • Esther met Josephine Baker in Paris.
  • Baby Esther had been scat singing since 1925, whereas Felix Mayol had in 1913. Gertrude Saunders claimed that she was the one true originator of "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" and had used it in 1921. 
  • Scholar Robert O' Meally said, Betty Boop was an "imitation of a imitation" and had, as it were, a black grandmother in her background.
  • Baby Esther Lee Jones is not to be confused with African-American "Double Crossing Blues" singer Little Esther Phillips (from the 1940s-1950s) who had also used the name "Little Esther" in her early career. Baby Esther Lee Jones was originally billed "Little Esther" in the 1920s-1930s. Which is why people mistake both entertainers for one another, as they had the same names and stage names. Esther Phillips was also known as Li'l Esther, just like Baby Esther was. Esther sharing a similar name with another artist can be compared to Little Ann Little and Ann Little who both also shared the same stage names.
  • Baby Esther was presumed deceased by people on the internet who decided to try and remove her from history by spreading false fabrications that she had passed away.
  • Lou Bolton a white Russian-American testified for the defense. Bolton testified that in Chicago he taught Baby Esther a negro child under his management to interpolate "Do-Do-De-Do-Ho-De-Wa-Da-De-Da" between the bars of music in popular songs, which means the scat lyrics used by the black performer were a variety.
  • Kane was said to have adapted the black performer's scat sounds to Poop, then later from Poop to Boop.
  • Baby Esther made funny expressions (funny faces) and interpolated meaningless sounds at the end of each bar of music in the songs that she performed to audiences in Harlem.
  • The image taken by James Van Der claimed to be Esther originated from a Betty Boop website. The image stated to be Esther in 1928 couldn't be Esther, because the woman featured in the image is too old, Esther was only 7-8 in 1928, which would have made her 14-15 years old in 1934. 
  • In a 1934 newspaper interview Little Ann Little one of the several voices of Betty Boop took credit for the African-American scat singers who'd claimed they'd Booped at the trial. Ann stated that she had Booped in 1925 and would often give a "Wha-Da-De-Da". Ann was dubbed the baby of the Greenwich Village Follies in the early 1920s and would sing cute baby songs.
  • Before Esther met Josephine Baker, she didn't know who Josephine Baker was. 
  • A few years after Jones, Bonnie Poe would go on to perform at the Everglades Club, in which she would sometimes in her act impersonate Helen Kane on stage. Not too long after, Bonnie Poe became the voice of Betty Boop.
  • Baby Esther's fake death was created as a hoax by a Helen Kane fan club. 

Links

See Also


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