Palmer first attracted significant attention as one of the first exponents of the "shimmy" dance in the late 1910s. She was sometimes credited as the creator of the "shimmy" (although there were other claimants at the time as well).
She first appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1918.
She toured with an early jazz band which included such notables as Emmett Hardy, Leon Ropollo and Santo Pecora in addition pianist/songwriter Al Siegel (who Palmer married). The band was called "Bee Palmer's New Orleans Rhythm Kings"; with some personnel changes the Rhythm Kings went on to even greater fame after parting ways with Palmer.
In 1921 an alleged affair with boxing champ Jack Dempsey created a scandal and a lawsuit.
She is credited as co-composer of the pop song standard Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone.
She made a few recordings which were not issued at the time (including a session with Frankie Trumbauer), thanks to surviving test pressings/masters the recordings were finally issued in the 1990s and 2000s.