Home PLACES Places in Hyde Park

Golden Horseshoe Lounge & Bettye Wilson Miller, 3243 Troost Avenue

Bettye Miller with Milt Abel
Bettye Miller with Milt Abel, Courtesy © The Kansas City Star Company

She was known as the high priestess, the reigning queen of Kansas City jazz. Bettye Wilson Miller´s music could be thunderous or lyrical, complex or simple; contrasts were ever-present in the style of this jazz pianist and contralto.

Bettye Wilson was born into a musical family in Clinton, Missouri, in 1928. She attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City and received a bachelor´s and master´s degree in vocal music. After two years of elementary school teaching in West Plains, Missouri, she went to Philadelphia in 1946 for further study to develop her contralto voice.

Frustrated in getting concert bookings, she played steadily at clubs in the city. When she came to Kansas City in 1953 with a baby daughter from her first marriage, her true style merged.

Bettye Miller accepted a three–day contract offered by Ed Schockey, owner of the Golden Horseshoe Lounge at 3243 Troost Avenue. The three days extended into 10 year with the Bettye Miller Trio: Bettye played piano, Wallace Jones drums, and Milt Abel bass. Miller and Abel became partners in music and marriage. They were leaders in a style they called "contemporary swing" that revitalized Kansas City jazz with polish and sophistication. They played the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas, Mr. Kelly´s in Chicago, the Embers in New York, and Mr. Putsch´s and several other clubs in Kansas City.

Kansas City Women of Independent Minds, Jane Fifield Flynn