The cartoon character Betty Boop made her first appearance on August 9, 1930, in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes. Those famous words “Boop-Oop-A-Doop” that are so famously associated with Betty Boop, were first sung on stage in the Cotton Club by a jazz singer named Baby Esther.
Esther Jones—whose stage name was “Baby Esther”—was a popular entertainer at Harlem’s Cotton Club in the late 1920s. Baby Esther interpolated words such as ‘Boo-Boo-Boo’ & ‘Doo-Doo-Doo’ in songs at a cabaret. Helen Kane saw Baby’s act in 1928 and used it in her hit song “I Wanna Be Loved By You”.
In May 1932, Helen Kane filed a $250,000 infringement lawsuit against Max Fleischer and Paramount Publix Corporation for the “deliberate caricature” that produced “unfair competition. While Kane had risen to fame in the late 1920s as “The Boop-Oop-A-Doop Girl,” a star of stage, recordings, and films for Paramount, her career was nearing its end by 1931. Paramount promoted the development of Betty Boop following Kane’s decline. The case was brought in New York in 1934. Although Kane’s claims seemed to be valid on the surface, it was proven that her appearance was not unique. An early test sound film was also discovered, which featured Baby Esther performing in this style, disproving Kane’s claims. Baby Esther’s manager also 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.”
“Baby Esther originated the boop-a-doop style of singing, and Helen Kane, white movie and radio star, barefacedly swiped it and made a fortune from it, a court reveals, as Miss Kane sues imitators of the boop style. ‘Twould be logical now for Baby Esther to sue Miss Kane, to make the thing even all around.”
— From The Afro American (Baltimore) – April 21, 1934