There was much to admire about William Thomas "Keter" Betts. As a bassist, he had flawless technique, a distinctive tone, and the ability to serve both as a steady timekeeper and a compelling soloist. In addition to his performing accomplishments - most notably his 24 years with Ella Fitzgerald, Keter spent many later years as an educator, lecturing at Howard University, performing at Wolf Trap's Head Start Program, the Washington Performing Arts Society's Concerts in Schools and the Prince George's County's Arts Alive Program.
Keter was born in July 22, 1928 in Port Chester, New York, where he began playing drums at the age of 6. After 10 years of hauling his Gene Krupa set around, in his sophomore year of high school Keter switched to the bass under the tutelage of bassist Arthur Miller. In 1947, just a year after graduating, Keter came to Washington D.C. and worked with saxophonist Carmen Leggio at the 7th & T Club, followed by a 2 year stint touring the country with R&B saxophonist Earl Bostic. In 1951, singer Dinah Washington persuaded him to join her for what turned out to be a five year hitch that included concerts, club dates, radio broadcasts and recording sessions including the famous "Dinah Jams".
When Keter and his wife started to raise a family in 1955, he gave the road a rest and settled back in the D.C. area. He began playing with guitarist Charlie Byrd, first at the Vineyard, then the at the Showboat Lounge. In 1959, Keter and Byrd raised their international profile while on a State Department sponsored tour of Europe and South America. They brought back with them some of the new sounds from Brazil that helped introduce Bossa Nova to American audiences by recording the historic "Jazz Samba" record with Stan Getz in 1962. Another turning point took place in 1964 when Betts joined the Tommy Flanagan Trio which led to his long engagement accompanying singer Ella Fitzgerald until her retirement.
In his 60 year career, Keter appeared on more than 100 recordings with Fitzgerald, Flanagan, Getz, Byrd, Dinah Washington, Clifford Brown, Count Basie, Bobby Timmons, Louis Bellson, Sam Jones, Nat Adderly, Wes Montgomery, and many others.
This site is a tribute to the man, the musician and consummate sideman.