Liz Tilton began her singing career while still in high school, joining Kenny Baker’s West Coast swing band during her senior year in 1938. Though never as popular as her older sister, Benny Goodman vocalist Martha, Tilton kept busy as a chirp well into the mid-1940s, working with Buddy Rogers’ swing outfit in 1938, Ray Noble in early 1940, and Bob Crosby’s band in 1941. She also cut a solo soundie, “Abercrombie Had a Zombie,” in 1941 with RCM. The song, described by Billboard as “zany,” also featured “eccentric dancer” Lee Murray.
Tilton remained with Crosby until at least December 1941. During 1942, she kept busy singing on various radio programs and performing at USO shows. She also worked often at the Hollywood Canteen and sang the title song in the patriotic Bugs Bunny short “Any Bonds Today?” In summer 1942 she toured with the Billy Mills’ orchestra. In late 1942 she toured with Gordon Jenkins.
Tilton joined Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra in April 1943 but stayed only two months, leaving in late June reportedly either to go solo or due to health reasons. She’d joined Jan Garber’s swing band by late July, however, proving very popular with audiences and critics. Reports indicated she was to leave Garber’s band in March 1944 due to illness, however she remained with Garber until July 1944 when she retired from show business to become a “full-time housewife.” She was back on the stage in February 1946, though, for a short stay with Gene Krupa’s orchestra, subbing for a departed Anita O’Day.
Tilton continued working into the 1950s, singing with Clyde McCoy’s orchestra in 1952 and dueting with her sister on Coral Records as The Liltin’ Tiltons in 1952 and 1953. She was often bill by her full name, Elizabeth Tilton, as well as the more familiar Liz.
- The “zombie” in question was the name of a popular alcoholic drink. This was well before the word came to have its modern meaning. Zombies in the 1940s were not the brain-eating undead creatures as we know them today. That image became the norm after the 1960s, influenced by director Roger Corman’s Living Dead films. The term zombie in the 1940s meant someone who was still alive but under the control of another person by hypnotism or drugs.