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Odessa Cowan, known professionally as Ina Ray Hutton (March 13, 1916 – February 19, 1984), was an American singer, bandleader, and the half-sister of June Hutton.[1] She led one of the first all-female big bands.

Ina Ray Hutton ad for a concert at the Army Air Base, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 22, 1942

A native of Chicago, Hutton began dancing and singing on stage at the age of eight.[2][3] Her mother was a pianist in Chicago.[3] At age 15, she starred in the Gus Edwards revue Future Stars Troupe at the Palace Theater[3] and Lew Leslie's Clowns in Clover. On Broadway she performed in George White's revues Melody, Never Had an Education and Scandals, then with the Ziegfeld Follies.

In 1934, she was approached by Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears,[4] As part of the group's formation, Mills asked her to change her name.[3] The group included trumpeter Frances Klein, Canadian pianist Ruth Lowe Sandler, saxophonist Jane Cullum, guitarist Marian Gange, trumpeter Mardell "Owen" Winstead, and trombonist Alyse Wells.

The Melodears appeared in short films and in the movie Big Broadcast of 1936.[2] They recorded six songs, sung by Hutton, before disbanding in 1939.[2] Soon after, she started the Ina Ray Hutton Orchestra (with men only) that included George Paxton and Hal Schaefer.[2] The band appeared in the film Ever Since Venus (1944), recorded for Elite and Okeh,[5] and performed on the radio.[2] After this band broke up, she started another male band a couple years later.[2] She married jazz trumpeter Randy Brooks.[2]

During the 1950s, Hutton formed a female big band that played on television and starred in The Ina Ray Hutton Show.[2] She retired from music in 1968 and died at the age of 67 on February 19, 1984 from complications due to diabetes.

Race

Although Hutton and some members of her family are known to have been white, historians have theorized that she and her family were of mixed white and African-American ancestry. In 1920, Hutton herself was listed in the US Census as "mulatto" and in 1930 as "negro".[6] Hutton was also mentioned under her original name in the black Chicago newspaper The Chicago Defender several times in articles describing the early years of her career. A photograph of her as a 7-year-old dancer appeared in a 1924 issue of the paper.[6]

Personal life

She married and divorced:

DiscographyA native of Chicago, Hutton began dancing and singing on stage at the age of eight.[2][3] Her mother was a pianist in Chicago.[3] At age 15, she starred in the Gus Edwards revue Future Stars Troupe at the Palace Theater[3] and Lew Leslie's Clowns in Clover. On Broadway she performed in George White's revues Melody, Never Had an Education and Scandals, then with the Ziegfeld Follies.

In 1934, she was approached by Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears,[4] As part of the group's formation, Mills asked her to change her name.[3] The group included trumpeter Frances Klein, Canadian pianist Ruth Lowe Sandler, saxophonist Jane Cullum, guitarist Marian Gange, trumpeter Mardell "Owen" Winstead, and trombonist Alyse Wells.

The Melodears appeared in short films and in the movie Big Broadcast of 1936.[2] They recorded six songs, sung by Hutton, before disbanding in 1939.[2] Soon after, she started the Ina Ray Hutton Orchestra (with men only) that included George Paxton and Hal Schaefer.[2] The band appeared in the film Ever Since Venus (1944), recorded for Elite and Okeh,[5] and performed on the radio.[2] After this band broke up, she started another male band a couple years later.[2] She married jazz trumpeter Randy Brooks.Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears,[4] As part of the group's formation, Mills asked her to change her name.[3] The group included trumpeter Frances Klein, Canadian pianist Ruth Lowe Sandler, saxophonist Jane Cullum, guitarist Marian Gange, trumpeter Mardell "Owen" Winstead, and trombonist Alyse Wells.

The Melodears appeared in short films and in the movie Big Broadcast of 1936.[2] They recorded six songs, sung by Hutton, before disbanding in 1939.[2] Soon after, she started the Ina Ray Hutton Orchestra (with men only) that included George Paxton and Hal Schaefer.[2] The band appeared in the film Ever Since Venus (1944), recorded for Elite and Okeh,[5] and performed on the radio.[2] After this band broke up, she started another male band a couple years later.[2] She married jazz trumpeter Randy Brooks.[2]

During the 1950s, Hutton formed a female big band that played on television and starred in The Ina Ray Hutton Show.[2] She retired from music in 1968 and died at the age of 67 on February 19, 1984 from complications due to diabetes.

Although Hutton and some members of her family are known to have been white, historians have theorized that she and her family were of mixed white and African-American ancestry. In 1920, Hutton herself was listed in the US Census as "mulatto" and in 1930 as "negro".[6] Hutton was also mentioned under her original name in the black Chicago newspaper The Chicago Defender several times in articles describing the early years of her career. A photograph of her as a 7-year-old dancer appeared in a 1924 issue of the paper.[6]

Personal life