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Billy Tipton

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Billy, nee Dorothy Lucille Tipton in Oklahoma City in 1914, was a jazz pianist. She found opportunities for women in this area quite limited—indeed, her KC, MO high school did not allow girls to join its marching band. She studied jazz piano and sax anyway.

Dorothy began performing as a man in 1933. Billy played piano with Louvenie’s Western Swingbillies, Scott Cameron, George Meyer, and Ross Carlyle before founding The Billy Tipton Trio, featuring Dick O’Neill (drums) and Kenny Richards (bass). The Trio recorded two albums of jazz standards for Tops Records. Offered a contract for four more albums, Billy chose to take the Trio to Spokane instead, where they were the house band for Allen’s Tin Pan Alley.

He retired in 1970 when arthritis no longer permitted him to perform, and died in 1989.

The Tiptons named themselves for Billy. His life and music have inspired an opera, a novel, and many other works.

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