Annette Hanshaw

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Annette Hanshaw
Annette Hanshaw Portrait.jpg
Annette Hanshaw, c. 1934
Background information
Birth name Catherine Annette Hanshaw
Born (1901-10-18)October 18, 1901
New York, New York
Died March 13, 1985(1985-03-13) (aged 83)
New York, New York
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1926–1934
Labels Pathé, Perfect, Columbia
Associated acts Ethel Waters
Bessie Smith
Eddie Lang
Joe Venuti
Annette Hanshaw in 1934

Catherine Annette Hanshaw (October 18, 1901 – March 13, 1985) was an American Jazz Age singer. She was one of the most popular radio stars of the 1930s. Over four million records of hers had been sold by 1934.[1] In a 1934 poll held by Radio Stars, she received the title of best "female popular singer," alongside Bing Crosby as best "male popular singer." Second place when to Ethel Shutta, third place went to Ruth Etting, and fourth place went to Kate Smith.[2]


Her singing style was relaxed and suited to the new jazz-influenced pop music of the late 1920s. Although she had a low opinion of her own singing, she continued to have fans because she combined the voice of an ingenue with the spirit of a flapper. Hanshaw was known as "The Personality Girl," and her trademark was saying "That's all" in a cheery voice at the end of many of her records.[3] She couldn't read a single note of music. She owned a music shop named The Melody Shop in Mount Kisco, New York. Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales, was said to adore dancing to her music.[1]

Between September 1926 and February 1934, she recorded prolifically. From 1926 to 1928 she recorded for Pathé (her sides were released on both the Pathé and Perfect labels). Starting in June 1928, she recorded for Columbia; most of these were issued on their dime store labels Harmony, Diva, Clarion and Velvet Tone. A handful were also released on their regular price Columbia and OKeh. Although most were released under her own name, she was renamed Gay Ellis (for sentimental numbers) and Dot Dare or Patsy Young (for her Helen Kane impersonations). She recorded under a number of other pseudonyms, which included Ethel Bingham, Marion Lee, Janet Shaw, and Lelia Sandford. Starting in August 1932, she began recording for the ARC with her recordings issued on their Melotone, Perfect, Conqueror, Oriole and Romeo. Her final session, February 3, 1934, was placed on ARC's Vocalion label.[4]

Hanshaw made her one and only appearance on film[5] in the 1933 Paramount short Captain Henry's Radio Show, "a picturization" of the popular Thursday evening radio program Maxwell House Show Boat, in which she starred from 1932 to 1934.

Having grown tired of show business, in the late 1930s Hanshaw retired and settled into married life with her husband, Pathé Records executive Herman "Wally" Rose. She later commented,

As a matter of fact, I disliked all of [my records] intensely. I was most unhappy when they were released. I just often cried because I thought they were so poor, mostly because of my work, but a great deal, I suppose, because of the recording. [...] I disliked the business intensely. I loathed it, and I'm ashamed to say I just did it for the money. I loved singing, you know, jamming with the musicians when it isn't important to do, but somehow or another I was terribly nervous when I sang. [...] You just have to be such a ham and love performing, and I happen to be an introvert, and I just wasn't happy singing, and I wasn't happy with my work as I said.
— Annette Hanshaw, Radio interview with Jack Cullen, 1978[6]

Later in life, in a would-be comeback, she recorded two demo records, but they were never released. She died of cancer in 1985 at New York Hospital, aged 83, after a long illness; she was living in Manhattan at that time.[7]

Collections of Hanshaw's recordings were released on Audio CD in 1999 by Sensation Records. Another revival of interest occurred in 2008 with the use of Hanshaw's music throughout the full-length indie animated feature Sita Sings the Blues, which retells the Indian epic poem the Ramayana from Sita's perspective by setting scenes from it to performances by Hanshaw.[8] More recently, her 1929 song "Daddy Won't You Please Come Home" was featured in the video game BioShock 2 in 2010.


For many years it was believed that Annette had been born in 1910 and began her recording career shortly before her 16th birthday. However, it has recently come to light that she was in fact[9] born nine years earlier, making her 25 at the time of her first commercial recording in September 1926. Her nephew, Frank W. Hanshaw III, has confirmed 1901 as the date on her birth certificate.[10]


Hanshaw, c. 1933
  1. ^ a b Matthews, Chester (November 10, 1934). "Apples—Swastikas—Parabolas". Radio Guide (United States: Radio Guide). Retrieved October 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ "They Win!". Radio Stars (New York: Dell Publishing, Co.). June 1934. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  3. ^ Annette Hanshaw at the Red Hot Jazz Archive
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Film clip. Accessed January 30, 2007
  6. ^ "Annette Hanshaw Interview With Jack Cullen (1972) Part 1 Of 2" YouTube
  7. ^ "Annette Hanshaw Dies at 74; Singer in 1920's and 1930's". The New York Times. March 19, 1985. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Music Industry Killing Internet Radio, Sita Sings the Blues". 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  9. ^ Annette's Birth-date. Accessed January 30, 2007
  10. ^ Annette Hanshaw Biography. Accessed January 30, 2007

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