below is the wiki….(and i have completely gone mad for her)…
Anderson was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of a construction worker. At age three, she could sing along with the raw tunes of the legendary Bessie Smith; she soon moved on to the more refined environs of her local church, singing solos in its gospel choir.
Anderson tells of her early life in the book, The Jazz Scene (1998):
“My parents used to play blues records all the time,” Ernestine Anderson told me. “John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, all the blues greats. In Houston, where I grew up, you turned on the radio and what you got was country and western and gospel. I don’t even remember what my first experience with music was. I sort of grew into it. My father sang in a gospel quartet and I used to follow him around, and both my grandparents sang in the Baptist church choir. And they had big bands coming through Houston like Jimmie Lunceford, Billy Eckstine, Erskine Hawkins, and Count Basie.” Ernestine’s godmother entered her in a local talent contest when she was twelve years old. “I only knew two songs,” she admitted, “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “So Long”. The piano player asked me what key did I do these songs in and I just said “C” for some reason and it was the wrong key. In order to save face I sang around the melody, improvised among the melody, and when I finished one of the musicians told me I was a jazz singer.”
Her family moved to Seattle, Washington in 1944, when she was sixteen. Anderson graduated from Garfield High School. When she was eighteen, she left Seattle, to tour for a year with the Johnny Otis band. In 1952, she went on tour with Lionel Hampton’s orchestra. After a year with the legendary band, she settled in New York, determined to make her way as a singer. Her appearance on Gigi Gryce’s 1955 album Nica’s Tempo (Savoy) led to a partnership with trumpeter Rolf Ericson for a three-month Scandinavian tour. Ernestine’s first album in the United States was made after her debut album, recorded in Sweden and released here by Mercury Records under the title Hot Cargo (1958), which created a huge sensation. In 1959 Anderson won the Down Beat “New Star” Award and recorded for Mercury to more acclaim, before dividing her time from the mid-60’s between America and Europe.