BETTY MANN of the GATEWAY TRIO
Betty Jean Bachman (AKA Betty Mann) was born in Lewistown, Montana, January 14, 1932. Her father, Paul Gale Bachman, was a well-known leather craftsman, who built beautiful saddles. Her mother, Donna Tuss Bachman, was a homemaker, and mother of six. In later years, she was employed in restaurants.
Betty began her singing career (a gift that came naturally to her) in the third grade. She also had a natural talent for piano, playing by ear, until her mother arranged for five years of piano lessons when she was eight.
Her main goal as a child was to become as famous as Shirley Temple. For most of her teenage years, she was obsessed with becoming a professional ballerina. An irreversible leg injury put an end to that dream.
During her junior year in high school, she owned and operated the very successful Bachman School of Dance, having purchased the studio and goodwill from her teacher who was leaving town. She taught ballet, tap and craziness, producing many “interesting” dance revues. Betty also choreographed and staged junior high and high school musical productions.
After her graduation from Fergus High in 1950, she enrolled in the theater arts department at Yuba Junior College in Marysville, California, where she met Peter Mesnard Aycrigg. They married September 1, 1951, and moved to Berkeley to attend the University of California. They divorced four years later.
Convinced by her friends that she needed some “professional” skills to fall back on, she left the University and enrolled in the Grace Ball Executive Secretarial College in San Francisco, graduating with honors in 1953 as a top notch executive secretary. She moved back to Berkeley in the mid 1950s, enrolled again in U.C. Berkeley's theatre/dance program and continued to study bass fiddle, guitar, ballet, modern dance and tap.
In order to pay the rent, she opened Campus Mimeo Service, a typing and mimeographing service that did term papers, theses, dissertations and copying for the local students.
Changing her name to Betty Montana, she pursued a career as a country-western singer. It seemed to be the logical course of action, since country singing was the only thing she knew, having grown up on a farm in Montana. Her “ace in the hole” that always wowed them at an audition, was the fact that she could really yodel--a talent she had perfected as a youth, while she was bringing the cows home for milking.
During the mid 1950s and early 1960s, she played bass with “The Redwood Canyon Ramblers,” a local bluegrass group; played bass and sang with “The Country Cousins” trio and was the female singer with “The Stars of The West,” a country-western band.
In 1962, she auditioned for Jerry Walter, leader of the San Francisco-based Gateway Singers, who was looking for a replacement for Elmerlee Thomas. This didn't work out, and six months' later, they formed the duo of “Jerry Walter and Betty Mann” (once again changing her name, but making it legal this time).
Betty Mann in the Gateway days
After eight months on the road, performing in coffee houses from California to Minnesota, they felt they needed a bigger sound. Upon returning to California, they were joined by Milt Chapman, formerly with the San Francisco jazz singing group, “The Axidentals.”
Talent scouts from Capitol Records saw the Trio for the first time when they were performing in a Seattle nightclub. They had been calling themselves “Jerry Walter, Betty Mann and Milt Chapman” - not quite a catchy name for a theatre marquee. Capitol signed them on the spot, and changed their name to The Gateway Trio.
The Trio made two albums for Capitol: “The Mad, Mad, Mad Gateway Trio,” a live performance album on January 18, 1963 and “The Gateway Trio” in April 1964. In 1965, their third album was almost recorded, when the hootenanny, folk phase hit the fan and the music world changed over night.
“Soldiers Who Want to be Heroes,” written by Rod McKuen and Milt Chapman, was the closest the Trio came to a hit record. It had started to break in the New Orleans area, but while one day it was on the Billboard charts with a bullet headed up, the next it had crashed. It was too political and too ahead of its time, and advertisers threatened to withdraw their advertising from radio stations if the DJs continued to play the record. (Some six months' later, protest songs of this type were all the rage and became number one hits.)
Prior to their eventual breakup in December 1965, the Trio worked constantly, appearing in college and civic concerts, nightclubs and fairs across the U.S and Canada. They costarred in MGM's movie “Hootenanny Hoot,” and appeared on ABC-TV's Hootenanny show.
After their breakup, Milt moved back to Los Angeles, and continued to work in television. Betty moved to Palo Alto, California and continued to work with Jerry as “Betty and Jer,” producing, writing and performing in educational films and local Bay Area radio commercials.
In 1969, with encouragement from Rod McKuen and Pat Paulsen, Betty created her one-woman, country-western act, and toured the military bases in the Far East for three months. In September of that year, she moved to Hollywood where she continued to perform “casuals” in the Los Angeles area and eventually joined the Monti Montana Wild West Show as a yodeling cowgirl and toured Japan, courtesy of Japan Airlines.
During her eight years in the Hollywood area, in addition to casual gigs, Betty worked as an independent public relations/promotional consultant and copy writer for various organizations. As Assistant Public Relations Director for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, she co-produced Hollywood's annual Santa Claus Lane Christmas Parade in 1971.
Betty Mann today
In 1976 Betty was offered a lucrative position in Santa Barbara as Production Assistant in a firm that wrote environmental impact reports for the government. The salary was great, and the thought of moving to beautiful Santa Barbara was too tempting to turn down.
In 1979 she married Richard L. Doutt, 15 years her senior, an Entomologist and Environmental Attorney, and retired to the simple life in Montecito (a suburb of Santa Barbara) and spent the following years raising birds, chickens, flowers, plants and rehabbing wildlife.
In 1987, feeling the urge to perform again, she joined a local ladies choral group (The Treble Clef Choir) and continued singing and performing. In 1990 she became a regular cast member of the Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera Company, appearing in numerous musical productions as an actress and singer.
Currently (2005), Betty has retired from the theatrical world and is hard at work on her journal/book about her life with the Gateway Trio, entitled “Puttin' On The Style.” Her husband has advanced Parkinson's disease, which keeps her housebound to some extent. She is Vice President of the Santa Barbara Parkinson Association and writes and produces their quarterly newsletter. Their large yard is a natural habitat for birds and creatures of the forest and their one remaining cat named “Mouse.”
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Jerry Walter died February 10, 1979 of a massive heart attack. Milt Chapman is alive and well, retired and living in Indio, California and gigging in local clubs several nights a week.