Gloria Parker is an American musician and bandleader who had a radio show during the big band era. The Gloria Parker Show was broadcast nightly from 1950 to 1957, coast to coast on WABC. Parker entertained her audience by playing the marimba, organ, and the singing glasses (glass harp). Dubbed Princess of the Marimba, she conducted the 21-piece Swingphony from the Kelly Lyceum Ballroom in Buffalo, New York. This was the largest big band led by a female bandleader. Edgar Battle and Walter Thomas were arrangers for the Swingphony.

Parker is also known for her starring roles in music films (Soundies), such as Broadway and Main with Stepin Fetchit, Four Letters, Here Comes the Fattest Man in Town with comedic personality Mel Blanc as Santa Claus, Penthouse Party featuring Parker playing the glass harp, and Wise Men Say, all produced and directed by William Forest Crouch. She composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the films. Soundies were viewed on a Panoram, a coin-operated film jukebox in bars, nightclubs, restaurants, amusement parks, and community centers.


Early life

The grand-daughter of a Czech emigrant[1]and daughter of musician Rita Rose, Parker was born in Brooklyn, New York, and studied violin[2] with Leopold Auer and performed on CBS Your Hit Parade with bandleader Mark Warnow and Raymond Scott. During the Second World War, Parker's father was a United States Air Force test pilot stationed in Hawaii.


Parker worked as a songwriter, bandleader and musician. She performed with her orchestras playing the marimba, glass harp or musical glasses, piano, organ, violin, viola, vibraphone, xylophone, guitar, drums and all Latin percussion instruments.

Her radio program, The Gloria Parker Show, featured her all-female Swingphony, the largest big band led by a woman. In the early 1950s, she hosted a radio program with Vincent Lopez from the Taft Hotel in Manhattan called Shake the Maracas.[2] She hosted an evening broadcast on WOR from the New York City Hotel Edison. Parker would open the show with the glass harp or musical glasses and feature the popular latin sound on her marimba with her orchestra.

The Big Band Era suffered from a musicians' recording ban from August 1942 to November 1944. The union that a majority of musicians belonged to did not allow its members to record until the record companies such as CBS agreed to pay them each time their music was played on the radio. This happened after an earlier ban of ASCAP songs from radio stations which led to the demise of this style of swing music. Parker emerged as a spokesperson for musicians and earned the title "Famous One Share Stockholder" in her battle for musician rights with CBS, RCA, and Time Inc. The national media would anxiously await Parker's head to head confrontations with CBS founder William S. Paley and RCA chairman of the board David Sarnoff at the annual stockholder meetings.

Personal life

As of 2012, Parker resides on Long Island, New York.[1] She designs and makes her own wardrobe, a talent she has utilized throughout her career with show stopping gowns, suits, dresses and coats.

Swing era music

Special appearances