Baby Esther
Baby ESther JONEZ


Esther Jones
Baby Ester
Bay Esther
Gertrude Saunders (1)
Flo O'Brien
Chocolate Helen Kane

Baby Esther was a entertainer who used to perform in nightclubs (most notably The Cotton Club) in the late 1920s. Baby Esther interpolated words such as "Boo-Boo-Boo", "Wha-Da-Da","Doo-Doo-Doo" & "Do-Do-De-Do-Ho-De-Wa-Da-De-Da" in songs at a cabaret. Helen Kane saw Baby's act somewhere between 1925-1928 and had first used it in her first Victor release "That's My Weakness Now". Helen Kane then used the Boop Oop a Doop scat lyrics in the Broadway musical Good Boy and had a hit with the song entitled "I Wanna Be Loved By You" in 1928 and became famous overnight. An early test sound film was also discovered featured Baby Esther performing in this style, disproving Kane's claims to inventing the scat lyrics "Boop-Boop-a-Doop". Baby Esther's ex-manager testified that Helen Kane had saw Baby Esther's cabaret act in 1928. 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 of singing did not originate with Kane. Other claims asked to Kane during the trial were that an witness claimed to have heard the phrase uttered in a Edith Griffith song, another defense asked if she had heard a 1913 song called "Bou Dou Ba Da Boum" to which Helen had denied. Due to Baby Esther being unable to attend the trial in the defense, three voices of Betty Boop, (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. When Max Fleischer, invented Betty Boop he was not only imitating Helen Kane but a whole image of women in the 1920s. Helen Kane did not initiate the phraseology "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" even though she most certainly popularized it. This catchy, inane line of scat was first used by a black entertainer by the name of Baby Esther. 

Nightclub Singer

1925 Cotton Club Harlem

Baby Esther was an opening act, who was very little known. In the 1920s she used to perform at nightclubs in Harlem most notably the The Cotton Club. The only person who would have been able to confirm this today had he not been deceased would have to have been Cab Calloway the Hi-De-Ho Man as he used to headline at The Cotton Club in 1925 and was strongly associated with the club for years. According to Marion Luber who was a nightclub dancer she heard "Baby" Esther perform at an Atlantic City, New Jersey nightclub in 1928.

Dan Healy and Helen Kane

Dan Healy who starred with Helen Kane in the 1928 musical Good Boy had worked in The Cotton Club since 1925 and would often produce and appear in the stage shows as he himself was a singer and dancer. The stage show was often advertised as Dan Healy's Cotton Club on Parade. The link between Dan Healy, The Cotton Club and Helen Kane is quite the coincidence. A witness had claimed that they had saw Helen attend the club and that she had saw Baby Esther's performance and not too long after started to Boop. It is known that Danny Healy was still working at The Cotton Club between 1927-1928, around that time period (1928) Daniel was also working with Helen Kane in the musical Good Boy and they were paired together because the Broadway characters they played, "Pansy McManus" and "Bobby D'Arnell" appeared in a small scene incorporating the song "I Wanna Be Loved By You" a song in which would become a hit overnight. Dan would continue to produce shows for the The Cotton Club in 1934 & again in 1936. Three years later in 1939 Dan Healy married Helen Kane and they stayed married until Helen died in 1966. According to information given there were a lot of African-American performers who used to perform at the club. From Duke Ellington, Baby Cox to The Cotton Club Boys who were a chorus of male African-American dancers who appeared exclusively in Cotton Club performances who made their debut in the Spring of 1934 Edition of the Cotton Club Parade. The Cotton Club Girls in the early years included Mae Robinson and Isabel Washington, as well as sisters Hilda and Vivian Brown, Margaret Cheraux, Millicent Cook, Mildred Dixon, Peggy Griffiths, Carolyn Rich Henderson, Ethel, Lucia and Julia Moses, Julia Noisette, Evelyn Shepard, and Tondelayo. The Cotton Club Girls had already become an institution in their own right and the Club's management, feeling they needed a new gimmick, decided to use a line of young male dancers. Dozens were auditioned, and ten were finally chosen: Maxie Armstrong, Louis Brown, Charles "Chink" Collins, Howard "Stretch" Johnson, Thomas "'Chink" Lee, Eddie Morton, Tommy Porter, Walter Shepherd, William Smith, and Jimmy Wright. They were made a feature act of the show and their new style of group dancing, in which all moved together in rhythmic unison, was immediately popular. At the end of an eight-month run they became an established feature at the Club. The Boys later performed in specialty acts at the Apollo Theater and also toured with Cab Callaway and his band. Subsequent members of the Cotton Club Boys include Julius Adger, Al Alstock, Roy Carter, Sherman Coates, Warren Coleman, Ernest Frazier, Freddie Heron, and Roy Porter. Author Jacque Malone notes that in 1940, the Cotton Club Boys’ performance in Chicago included Jules Adjers, Louie Brown, Freddy Heron, Chink Lee, Eddie Morton, Charles “Cholly” Atkins.

I Wanna Be Loved By You – Three Little Words (1950)01:41

I Wanna Be Loved By You – Three Little Words (1950)

Just like there is no footage of Baby Esther scat singing, there is also no live footage of Helen Kane and Dan Healy performing the 1928 hit song "I Wanna Be Loved By You" from the musical Good Boy. The show in which Kane first started to "Boop" was referenced in the 1950 film Three Little Words where Helen is played by Debbie Reynolds and Dan Healy is played by Carleton Carpenter. The sequence shows that the production of Good Boy featuring Kane was a hit. It also went down to her adding the scat sounds, in which made her a star practically overnight.

Boop-a-Doop Mystery (1932)

Helen Kane 1932 Harlem Negro

The great Boop-a-Doop mystery now joins those other famous cases. Watson! There's the unsolved matter of whence came "Hi-De-Hi" and "Ho-De-Ho." And the hot-cha-cha affair still baffles the po-police. It's not elementary this time my dear fellow! Helen Kane, who once cashed in on "Booping" and cashed out on court litigation, believes there's still gold in them boops. In fact she asks $250,000 of that animated cutie Betty Boop. It all depends upon where Boop-a-Doop came from. Was or was not Miss Kane the first of the Boopers?

The answer is believed to lie in Harlem. Scouts now search the Negro cabarets for data. They find themselves getting a bit tangled in the ramifications of the scat song. And one of the amusing issues will be whether or not anyone can "Boop" or whether boop-ing is Miss Kane's own and particular property. 

African-American Boop Singer Referenced in Newspaper? (1930)

Baby Esther Jones Featured In 1930

An African American "Boop" singer (presumed to be Baby Esther) who performed in a Harlem club was referenced in a 1930 newspaper article that was referencing many African American performers. There is a chocolate Helen Kane who Boob-a-Doops-a-Doops. The article goes on to explain that there are a few African American comedians who are not allowed many opportunities therefore they make the best of what they get. The newspaper then goes on about a black gal who sings and dances, with amusing indolence and makes a hit by being grotesque.

Chocolate Helen Kane 1930 Jamacia

Another 1930 "Hot Rhythm" black revenue featured a black female performer who Booped in their act. Black female singers who Booped in the 20s-30s were often referred to as "Chocolate Helen Kane". A black Jamaican Boop singer  Boop-Boop-a-Dooped in the Negro revnue act. The act was classed as a Harlem tinge.

Evidence Against Kane

Edith Griffith Boop a Doop Nebraska 1927

Edith Griffith, and Felix Mayol were also used as evidence against Helen Kane, but the old footage of Baby Esther performing the routine helped prove that Helen Kane was not the "first" Boop-Oop-a-Doop singer in the business. Including Clarence Williams who testified that he had invented the Boop Oop a Doop phrase. 


A number of witnesses testified before Supreme Court Justice Edward J McGoldrick today that they had heard Boop-Boop-a-Doop songs long before Helen Kane says she introduced them to the public. Miss Kane insists that she was the originator of the singing technic which she has claimed as hers since 1928, and that the technic was stolen by Max Fleischer, Fleischer Studios, Inc. and Paramount-Publix Corporation in the promotion of the Betty Boop animated screen cartoons. For this infringement on her alleged rights Miss Kane has appealed to the court for $250,000 damages. The first witness today was Alfred Evans, who said that he was in the employ of Rudy Vallée. He said that in 1927, a year before Helen Kane first offered a Boop to the American theater-going public, he heard a few Boops from Edith Griffith, who affected a baby voice in her stage performances. Another witness, who insisted that Helen Kane's Boops were not 100 per cent novelties, was Marion Luber, a dancer, who told the court that early in 1928 she heard Baby Esther, a Negro child performer employ the Boop style of singing which Miss Kane considers her own. Under cross-examination this witness said she did not recall the songs she heard Bay Esther sing but that she remembered the child's songs were replete with Boops and Doops.

Baby Esther Little Ann Little

Alfred Evans, an employe of Rudy Vallée, said he heard Edith Griffith sing "baby" songs in an Omaha, Neb theatre in 1927, with the interpolations, "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" and "Poop-Poop-a-Doop." Mrs. Marion Luber, dancer testified that she had heard similar noises made by "Baby" Esther Jones at an Atlantic City night club in 1928. The chief defense witness was Little Ann Little, 24, whose voice is synchornized with the Betty Boop cartoons. Nine years ago, she testified she sang "baby" songs in the Greenwich Village Follies. "I sang cute baby songs and did breaks at the end of the bars of music, Miss Little said. These "breaks," she continued, included the sounds "Wha-Da-De-Dah," "Bo-Vo-Deo-Do" and even "Ba-Da-Daten-Doop," "Is that one a new one on you?" she ad libbed, directing the question at Louis Phillips, defense attorney who yesterday demonstrated a keen knowledge of spelling "baby" sounds by coming to the aid of a bewildered court stenographer. Justice McGoldrick reminded Miss Little that answering questions was all that the court expected of witnesses.

Helen Kane Is Not Original

Helen Kane Is Not The Original

Baby Esther Jones Original 1

A medley of strange unintelligible sounds came today from the court room where Helen Kane's big Boop-Boop-a-Doop trial is being heard. There was a "Boop" or two then a "Doo-Doo-Doo" finally "Wha-Da-Da-Da!" Everyone especially the court stenographer was confused. The stenographer's knowledge of spelling did not transcend the dictionary. The assortment of noises came during the attempts of the defense to show that the art of "Booping" was not original with Helen Kane. That the responsibility rested with others who had preceded her on stage.

Baby Esther Jones Original 2

Miss Kane is seeking $250,000 damages from Max Fleischer, cartoonist, the Fleischer Studios and Paramount Publix corporation on the ground that the Betty Boop screen cartoons constitute larceny on her mannerisms and song technique.  

Miss Baby Esther Jones aka Gertrude Saunders

Testifying for the defense Lou Bolton, theatrical manager said that one of his stage proteges, Esther Jones a Negro woman had interpolated songs with syliables similar to Miss Kane's as long ago as 1925. In 1928, Bolton continued, Miss Kane and her manager attended a performance of Miss Jones whose stage name was Baby Esther in a New York night club just a few weeks later he said Miss Kane began to "Boop" at a theater here. Then followed an exhaustive retracing of the history of "Boop-Boop-a-Doopery".

Information on Baby Esther (Ray Pointer)

Information provided by Ray Pointer (Fleischer Historian): The film of "Baby" Esther was a double system sound technique like Vitaphone. Lou Fleischer told me the whole story. The film did not "break" at the point of the Boop-Oop-a-Doop part. They did not show this in court. What happened was the print has been spliced in several places due to breakage and went out of sync at the crucial point due to the lost frames. Lou and Kitty Pfister, head Film Cutter stayed up all night locating spots to insert black film slugs to replace the lost frames to put the crucial spot back in sync. A new married print with optical sound was produced, the Paramount News Lab being kept open all night waiting for this to present as evidence the next morning. The remark about Justice McGoldrick being "bribed" is a conclusion not based on fact. There was enough remaining evidence to prove Miss Kane's case. However since there is a Film Faily Trade Ad that places a picture of Helen Kane next to an early version of Betty Boop. Further evidence can be found in the tampering with the original negative to "Stopping the Show", which was built around Mae Questel's stage act impressions, which prompted Max Fleischer in hiring her. This is the first official Betty Boop cartoon which consists of a series of contemporary celebrities.  Each is introduced by a photograph of that celebrity with animated lips and the voice of that celebrity coming from the picture. Only the voice of Maurice Chevalier is authentic.  The voice of Fanny Brice is an imitation by Mae Questel. Oddly, the sequence begins with Betty going right into "That's My Weakness Now", a song made popular by Helen Kane.  This song is not set up by the celebrity picture on the easel as the others are. You hear an audio splice from the audience applause going to the song.  At two points there is a Long Shot, one of which Pans from the stage to the audience. In the background is an image on a easel that looks like the image of Helen Kane. Why else would it be there? This direct reference to Helen Kane was deliberately removed from the negative so that a new print could be shown in court that would not indicate an edit. But it clearly was removed from the negative. Paramount took advantage of the ignorance of film technology on the part of court, which accepted what they saw not knowing what had been done to alter the evidence.

Lou Walton

Lou Walton (Sometimes his second name is mistaken for Bolton) was Baby Esther's manager. Baby Esther did not attend the trial, but Lou Walton spoke in the Fleischers and Paramounts defense.

Defense Attorney:

"What sounds did she (Baby Esther) interpolate?"

Lou Walton:

"Boo-Boo-Boo!" (Recited Walton)

Defense Attorney:

"What other sounds?"

Lou Walton:


Defense Attorney:

"Any others?"

Lou Walton:

"Yes, Wha-Da-Da-Da." (Said Walton tiring a little)

The court stenographer broke down at this point, He threw his hands into the air as a gesture of despair and announced he would need aid in spelling the "meaningless sounds". Walton could not give him any aid, Philips did however. Other defense witnesses were Bonnie Poe and Margie Hines who's voices were used in the Betty Boop films.

Help! Stenographer Can't Take Wha-Da-Da's & Boops

Wha da da baby esther

Recording of the Helen Kane "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" jargon in the singers $250,000 damage suit trial in Supreme Court, Manhattan has been driving the court stenographer to distraction. He threw his hands in dismay and yelled for help today when the testimony was offered as to the in-articulate jargon of Baby Esther. Negress night club singer from whom the defense was trying to establish. the Helen of the rolling eyes got the "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" idea.

The Afro American Newspaper (1934)

In 1934 the Afro American newspaper stated:

Afro american 1934

Baby Esther originated the Boop-a-Doop style of singing, and Helen Kane white movie an radio star barefacedly swiped it and made a fortune from it a court trial reveals as Miss Kane sues imitators, (Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe, Little Ann Little, Kate Wright, Margie Hines) of the Boop style. T'would be logical now for Baby Esther to sue Miss Kane to even things all around.  Meaning the newspaper stated that Baby Esther "should" have sued Kane, but she didn't, most likely because she was presumed to be "dead" by her manager. Baby Esther used to perform at The Cotton Club down in Harlem in the early 20s and several years had passed since then.

The Boop Song Is Traced

Witness in Helen Kane's Suit Says Negro Girl Originated Style.

The Boop Song Is Traced

Evidence that syllables similar to Helen Kane's "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" were sung before she began to use them was offered before Supreme Court Justice McGoldrick yesterday in the trial of Miss Kane's $250,000 suit against Max Fleischer, the Fleischer Studios and the Paramount Publix Corporation on the grounds that they imitated her (Helen's) style in the Betty Boop cartoons. Lou Walton, theatrical manager testified that Baby Esther a Negro girl under his management has interpolated words like "Boo-Boo-Boo" and "Doo-Doo-Doo" in songs at a cabaret here in 1928.

Oyla (Cosplay Artist)


A photo of a Russian model known as Модель Оля (Model Oyla) who posed in several photographs as Betty Boop in which went viral and has been seen by millions of people on the internet where the photo has been mistaken as Baby Esther, and or Helen Kane.

Reason For Mistaken Photograph?

The reason as to why the photoshoot of Oyla was mistaken for Baby Esther was because "HelloBeautiful's" Lifestyle Editor Danielle Young posted the photo of the "white" Russian cosplayer dressed up as Betty Boop and claimed it was Baby Esther without researching the origin of the photograph, which made people believe the photograph was actually "Baby Esther", and also lead some people to believe Betty Boop was of mixed-race heritage/Mulatto.

Little Esther Jones


Esther Mae Phillips (not to be confused with Baby Esther) originally born "Esther "Mae" Jones" sometimes referred to as just "Esther Jones" in her earlier career was a blues singer or more or less a versatile singer who sung soul music, pop, country and mainly R&B.


Little Esther who had debuted in the 1940s as "Little Esther" and sometimes "Little Esther Phillips".  Her career had kicked off in "1950" with her first hit record entitled "Double Crossing Blues".


When "Baby Esther" Boop originator became viral, "Baby Esther" was mistaken for "Little Esther" aka Esther Mae Phillips (originally known as Esther Jones)  due to confusion.


In 1954 "Esther Phillips" was arrested for street walking and suspicion of narcotics addiction by Los Angeles police. Esther Mae Phillips died in 1984 due to liver and kidney failure due to drugs use. Her funeral services were conducted by Johnny Otis. She was buried in the Morning Light section at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. The bronze marker recognizes her career achievements, as well as quoting a Bible passage: "In My Father's House Are Many Mansions" - St. John 14:2.

Baby's True Identity? - Gertrude Saunders

Gertrude claims to have originated boop boop a doop cotton club

Baby Esther may have been a stage name in late October 1934 a woman by the name of Gertrude Saunders was dubbed "The Original Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl". According to rare information Gertrude appeared in an all-black Broadway show in the early 1920s entitled Shuffle Along and ended with her number "Daddy Won't You Please Come Home," ending the entire scat chorus in baby talk.

Black Betty Boop Gertrude Saunders aka Baby Esther

Gertrude was featured in the Afro American as the original Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl. Gertrude was then referenced in 1938 where it was declared that she debuted in The Cotton Club and that she was figured prominently at the "Boop-a-Doop" $250,000 trial of Helen Kane and Betty Boop who both claimed they originated the funny twist which was also a radio rage.  Gertrude declared that it was "she" who actually started booping before Betty Boop and Helen Kane. 

Gertrude saunders conceded to be the originator of boop helen kane

Gertrude was lastly referenced in June 1950 as originator of Boop-Boop-a-Doop made famous by Helen Kane, and was boosted alongside other famous faces such as Ella Fitzgerald and Rose "Chi-Chi" Murphy who had also started to Boop.

Rose Murphy I Wanna Be Loved By You02:21

Rose Murphy I Wanna Be Loved By You

Instead of Booping Murphy would add her own twist which was "Chee-Boop-Chee-Boop", as she was known as the Chee-Chee Girl which was a tongue in cheek reference to the Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl.

Gertrude Saunders as Flo O' Brien (1939)

Pits 1939 gertrude saunders

In my opinion Gertrude Saunders a veteran actress of the stage a "coined" "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" which brought fame to Betty Kane (Helen Kane a mixture of Betty Boop and Helen Kane) is the real star of the "Swing Radio" despite all arguments the contrary she does a beautiful bit of show stealing. Adverbs for the Paramount theatre.The tabloid edition run "Swing Mikado" simply billed as "Flo 'O Brien" because she was a sensational star.

Gertrude had stated in 1938 that she had booped before Betty Boop and Helen Kane indicating that she was the black girl referenced in the suit. But there is no solid proof to back this up as Gertrude could have lied but Gertrude did fit the profile as she was best known for her "good hair" which was also curly. And according to information Gertrude was never that good of a singer she more or less relied on how she looked.

$250,000 Lawsuit

Betty Boop Era (1985)

Baby esther 1980s

The black gal should have been suing Helen Kane! And, incidentally, where are Baby Esther's recordings? Well at least we have some of Helen's, and they're good fun. They date from 28, 29 and 30 and characteristically there are no per-sonnel listings. A pity, as the pianist really could stride, and someone took a heck of a hot coronet solo at one point. We'll probably never know, and this is one of the frustrations of early 20th century recordings. No data, A studio orchestra.

Black History Month (2016)

Baby Esther Jones was put on the spotlight for Black History Month (2016 ) where she was praised. It was dubbed that she was the true inspiration behind the creation of Boop Boop a Doop.

Viral Video

Baby Esther Jones Betty Boop Wikia

In June (2017) a video entitled "Did you know? The Real Betty Boop Was a Harlem Jazz Singer" went viral with over 15K retweets and 22K likes.

OMG FACTS Baby Esther Black African American Betty Boop

The video originates from Facebook and was originally posted by OMGFacts.  The video has been reblogged by millions on the site and has been seen by a total of 3,523,629. Some of the images used in the video originate from the Betty Boop Wikia. The video compares Helen Kane. Betty Boop and Baby Esther and gives the originator (Esther) recognition for creating the scat sounds that were adapted by Kane and later by the animated character Betty Boop.

Baby Esther Merchandise

Baby Esther Jones Black Betty Boop Merchandise

A Baby Esther Jones Afrocentric T-shirt by MindHarvest sold over 400 prints which can be brought directly on Etsy.

MindHarvest Etsy

The same T-shirt by MindHarvest was later sold on Dizinga by R4k4167.


Esther Jones-001:12

Esther Jones-0



  • Baby Esther had been booping since 1925, whereas Felix Mayol had booped in 1913.
  • 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 was presumed dead in 1934, just when the lawsuit had ended and didn't attend the trial.
  • Lou Walton testified for the defense. Walton testified that nine years ago 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 performers scat sounds to Boop then later to Boop.
  • Esther's manager also testified that Helen Kane & her manager saw baby's act somewhere between 1928-1929.
  • 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 the audience in The Cotton Club in Harlem.
  • Baby Esther's photograph was taken by an African American photographer by the name of James Van Der best known for his portraits of black new yorkers. Most of the photographs he took were around The Cotton Club in Harlem.The original of the image claimed to be Esther originated from a Betty Boop website.
  • Baby Esther is not to be mistaken for Little Esther another African American child/teen performer who debuted in the 1950s and is better known as Esther Phillips, who started performing from the age of 14 in the 1940s.
  • When Baby Esther became as "viral online sensation" people thought that "Little Esther" and Baby Esther were the same person.
  • In some newspapers Esthers name is simply stated as Ester.
  • A woman by the name of Gertrude Saunders, claimed that she was the woman featured in the lawsuit event and claimed to have been the originator of "Boop Boop a Doop".
  • 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 gave 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.

External Links

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