Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Betty Lynn Buckley was two when she first sang in front of her church congregation; at three she began dance lessons with her aunt, Mary Ruth Diltz, a former dancer for Billy Rose in his celebrated theatre at Casa Manana. Betty's inspiration, one that she recalls vividly, came at age 11 when she witnessed Bob Fosse's original "Steam Heat" choreography in a summer stock production of "The Pajama Game." Betty Lynn, the little girl with the huge voice, trained herself by listening to the recordings of Judy Garland and Della Reese, but it was her own unique sound -- a voice the "The Hollywood Reporter" years later would describe as "one of the wonders of the world" -- that made her a stand-out in local talent shows. Betty made her professional stage debut at age 15 in a production of the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim classic, "Gypsy." A year later, she was performing up to 16 shows a day in the Six Flags Over Texas musical revues, while gaining additional experience through her work in Casa Manana's summer stock and children's theatrical productions.
While attending Texas Christian University, the journalism major and head cheerleader won the title of Miss Fort Worth (1966) and was runner up in the Miss Texas competition. The following year, she was invited to Atlantic City to perform at the Miss America Pageant. There, Betty was spotted by a talent agent who convinced the junior-year college student to fly to New York and audition, where she was signed by the International Famous Agency. Buckley then returned to TCU to complete her education.
In 1968 Betty toured Asia with Miss America, visiting the wounded from the Vietnam War in military hospitals in both Korea and Japan. It was a watershed experience for both America and the 21-year-old Betty Buckley, who set aside her dreams for Broadway and returned to her hometown to write for the Fort Worth Press. At the urgings and encouragement of her agents, Betty eventually headed for New York, arriving on a cold winter's day in January 1969. Within hours, she auditioned for and landed her first job in the Broadway musical "1776," creating the role of Martha Jefferson and winning the heart of the legendary New York Times theatre critic Walter Kerr.
Seven months later, Buckley was off to London as the leading lady in the West End production of the hit musical "Promises, Promises," where she worked with Broadway legends David Merrick, Michael Bennett and Neil Simon. Her delivery of Burt Bacharach's "Knowing When to Leave" and "What Do You Get When You Fall in Love" earned her a 1970 Evening Standard Award nomination as Best Actress in a Musical. Buckley later returned to the N.Y. production of "1776" and then appeared in such Off-Broadway productions as "The Ballad of Johnny Pot" and "What's a Nice Country Like You Doing in a State Like This?" Betty's next Broadway role united her with her childhood idol, Broadway master Bob Fosse, when she assumed the role of Catherine in the Fosse-directed hit musical, "Pippin."
This was followed by a variety of film and television work including her memorable portrayal of Dixie Scott in Horton Foote's Oscar-winning film "Tender Mercy." In 1982 she became Grizabella the Glamour cat in Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Cats" and the rest, as they say, is history.