Betty Buckley - Biography
BY Marcus Kagler
Despite having released 11 solo albums, Betty Buckley is still primarily known for her role as Grizabella in the Broadway production of Cats. After performing on and off Broadway for over 30 years, her stirring rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory” cemented Buckley’s status as one of the greatest living musical theatre actresses in the world. Aside from her theatre credits Buckley has also appeared in numerous television and film productions and can currently be seen in clubs around New York and Los Angeles with her group Quintessence.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1947, Buckley meticulously studied the vocal styles of her idols Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald while growing up. Her first recording was made in 1967 when she was 20 but was never released. The following year she relocated to New York City and landed the part of Martha Washington in the Broadway production of 1776. Over the next five years Buckley could be seen in various productions around New York and London. Her most notable break came in 1977 when she was cast as the stepmother in the long running television show Eight Is Enough. Buckley also appeared in films like Carrie (1976) and Tender Mercies (1982).
The role that made her an enduring icon came with her turn as Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which earned her a 1983 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Although the classic song “Memory” had already been covered by the likes of Barbara Streisand and huge hit for Elaine Page, Buckley’s version has its champions. Buckley spent the remainder of the 1980s performing in various Broadway productions before releasing her first solo full-length. 1987’s Betty Buckley (Rizzoli) featured some of her own compositions alongside standards. Buckley’s 1994 full length, With One Look (Sterling) expanded her repertoire with classic covers of Hank Williams and Mary-Chapin Carpenter songs amongst others.
In 2007, the Playbill label released Buckley’s earliest recording, Betty Buckley 1967, for the first time. Buckley has been performing with jazz pianist Kenny Werner for over 16 years and together they have formed the group Quintessence, who performs regularly throughout the United States. Quintessence’s debut album will be released in February of 2008.