Baby Esther Jones

622pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Talk0 Share

Baby Esther
Baby ESther JONEZ


Esther Jones
Baby Ester
Gertrude Saunders (1)
Flo 'O Brien

Baby Esther was a popular entertainer at Harlem's Cotton Club in the late 1920s. Baby Esther interpolated words such as Boo-Boo-BooWha-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

Baby Esther Referenced in Newspaper (1930)

Baby Esther Jones was referenced in 1930 in a newspaper that was referencing many African American performers.

There is a chocolate Helen Kane who boob-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.

Evidence Against Kane

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. 

Helen Kane Is Not Original

Helen Kane Is Not The Original

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 dicitionary.   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.

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.  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: Doo-Doo-Doo

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

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:

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.

The Boop Song Is Traced

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

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 iterpolated 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 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

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". 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 declaired that it was "she" who actually started booping before Betty Boop and 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, but instead of Booping she'd add her own twist which was "Chee-Boop-Chee-Boop", as she was known as the Chee-Chee Girl which was a pun on the Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl.

Gertrude Saunders as Flo O' Brien (1939)

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 Miakdo" 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)

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.

Helen Kane Biography Book (Esther Jones)

There is a Helen Kane Biography Book that has been in the works for several years. It is not an original piece of work by Kane but is backed by her family (The Schroeder's) who are helping the writer with various information but some of the information in the book is a little twisted as the writer goes on to claim that Betty Boop was modeled on Clara Bow forgetting that Grim Natwick had used a photo of Kane for the base for the first 1930 short Dizzy Dishes, other poor research featured in the book is that "Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away" was written specially for Kane which is false information. The song was written for the 1931 Paramount short Musical Justice featuring Mae Questel as Betty Boop and was Betty Boop's official theme song. Sammy Timberg as a writer mainly wrote music for the Fleischer Studios and Paramount. Kane was no longer with Paramount as 1931 was her last year with them. The original transcript for Musical Justice stated that Margie Hines the original voice was to have done the role as Betty but instead it was given to Questel and Hines then went on the perform the same song in the 1932 cartoon Boop-Oop-a-Doop. Before Kane died she was working on her official biography book about her life but died of breast cancer before she could release it. The self proclaimed author of the unofficial book decided that they are to go through the trial and try to prove that a "Baby Esther" did not exist even though it was proven in court that she did. The writer wants to try and cover up a major part of the $250,000 Infringement Lawsuit which has now since been viewed on the internet by millions of people (whether they choose to listen or not is up to them) which back at the time of the suit was not a major part of suit as it in reality "Baby Esther" as a performer was only used to prove that Helen Kane was not original. The actual star defense witnesses who attended the trial were Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe and Margie Hines including a statement by Little Ann Little who had voiced Betty in 1930 and then went on to portray the character in person which was ""Boop-Oop-a-Doop" phrase had started out as "Ba-Da-Inde-Do", which developed into "Bo-Do-De-O-Do" and finally to "Boop-Oop-a-Doop"" along with several other defense witnesses including African American composer Clarence Williams who also stated that he had also "Booped" before Kane. The verdict was 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".


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 produced wasn't actually Boo Boo Boo's & Doo Doo Doo, but later adapted 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 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.
  • 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 at the lawsuit event and claimed to have been the originator of "Boop Boop a Doop".

External Links

See Also

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.