Annette Hanshaw

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Annette Hanshaw
Annette Hanshaw Portrait.jpg
Hanshaw, c. 1934
Background information
Birth name Catherine Annette Hanshaw
Born (1901-10-18)October 18, 1901
Manhattan, 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 1926–1937
Labels Pathé, Perfect, Columbia

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 of her records had been sold by 1934.[1] In her ten-year recording career, she recorded about 250 sides.[2] In a 1934 poll conducted by Radio Stars magazine, she received the title of best female popular singer (Bing Crosby was voted the best male popular singer). Second place went to Ethel Shutta, third place went to Ruth Etting, and fourth place went to Kate Smith.[3]


Catherine Annette Hanshaw was born on October 18, 1901 to Frank Wayne Hanshaw (1873–1927) and Mary Gertrude McCoy (1874–1959) in their residence in Manhattan.[4] She had two brothers, George and Frank.[5] Her father loved show-business and music; he ran away to join the circus, but he returned. Her aunt Nellie McCoy and Bob "Uke" Hanshaw were vaudeville performers. She sang for guests at hotels owned by her father and demoed sheet music at her family's music shop, The Melody Shop, in Mount Kisco, New York.[1] Hanshaw aspired to be a portrait painter, studying at the National School of Design for a year.[6] Her professional music career started when she was paid to sing for society and birthday parties.[2]

Before recording, in 1926, Hanshaw sang on local radio stations while visiting Florida with her family. Her first recording is a demo featuring a medley of popular songs for Pathé. Her first commercial recordings are "Black Bottom" and "Six Feet of Papa," recorded on September 12 and 18. She recorded for Pathé until 1928; Pathé released her sides on both the Pathé and the Perfect labels. Starting in June 1928, she recorded for Columbia; most of these recordings were issued on their dime-store labels Harmony, Diva, Clarion and Velvet Tone. A handful were also released on their regular-priced Columbia and OKeh labels. Although most were released under her 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, including Ethel Bingham, Marion Lee, Janet Shaw, and Lelia Sandford.[7] Starting in August 1932, she began recording for ARC; her recordings were issued on their Melotone, Perfect, Conqueror, Oriole and Romeo labels. Her final session, on February 3, 1934, was placed on ARC's Vocalion label.[2]

Hanshaw, c. 1933

Throughout her recording career, she sang with the Original Memphis Five, Willard Robison's Deep River Orchestra, Sam Lanin's Orchestra, Lou Gold's Orchestra, and Rudy Vallée's Connecticut Yankees.[5] She had been accompanied by Red Nichols, Miff Mole, Phil Napoleon, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Adrian Rollini, Vic Berton, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden and Irving Brodsky.[7][4]

Hanshaw began appearing on the radio in 1929. In the early 1930s, she sang on the air with Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra. From 1932 to 1934, she was featured on the popular Thursday evening radio program Maxwell House Show Boat. She made her only appearance on film in the 1933 Paramount short "Captain Henry's Radio Show", a "picturization" of program.[8] Her music career ended on December 6, 1937, after a performance on "The Chevrolet Musical Moments Revue."[2]

Hanshaw's singing style was relaxed and suited to the jazz-influenced pop music of the late 1920s and early 1930s. She combined the voice of an ingenue with the spirit of a flapper. She 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.[7] Hanshaw had a low opinion of her voice, and she said was afraid of broadcasting. When asked why, she said, "I'm so afraid I'll fail, not sing my best. Suppose I should have to cough. Suppose I didn't get just the right pitch. And all those people listening."[9] Hanshaw's favorite singers were Marion Harris, Sophie Tucker, and Blossom Seeley.[2] She also enjoyed her contemporaries, Ruth Etting, Ethel Waters, and Connee Boswell.[10]

She composed two songs, "Sweet One" and "Till Your Happiness Comes Along."[9][11]

Hanshaw disliked show business. In a 1978 interview with Jack Cullen she said,

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.[10]

Hanshaw in 1934

Hanshaw married Pathé Records executive Herman "Wally" Rose in 1929. In 1954, he died. She later married Herb Kurtin.[2]

Later in life,[when?] in an attempted comeback, she recorded two demo records, "Penthouse Serenade" and "When I'm Housekeeping for You", but they were never released. She died of cancer in 1985 at New York Hospital, aged 83, after a long illness. She had been living in Manhattan.[5] She had no children.[4]

Collections of Hanshaw's recordings were released on CD by Sensation in 1999. Another revival of interest occurred in 2008 with the use of Hanshaw's music in the animated film 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.[12] 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 Hanshaw was born in 1910 and began her recording career shortly before her 16th birthday. However, it is now known that she was born nine years earlier, making her 25 at the time of her first commercial recording in September 1926.[13] Her nephew, Frank W. Hanshaw III, confirmed that 1901 is the date on her birth certificate.[2]


  1. ^ a b Matthews, Chester (November 10, 1934). "Apples—Swastikas—Parabolas". Radio Guide. United States: Radio Guide. Retrieved October 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Garrick, David (2016). "Annette Hanshaw Biography". Jazz Age 1920s. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  3. ^ "They Win!". Radio Stars. New York: Dell Publishing. June 1934. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Catherine Annette Hanshaw". The Hinshaw Family Association. Raw Bandwidth Communications, Inc. 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "Annette Hanshaw Dies at 74; Singer in 1920's and 1930's". The New York Times. March 19, 1985. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  6. ^ "What Do You Want to Know?". Radio Mirror. Broadway, New York: Syndicate Magazine Corporation. September 1934. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c Annette Hanshaw at the Red Hot Jazz Archive
  8. ^ Film clip. Accessed January 30, 2007
  9. ^ a b Drachman, Rosemary (December 1930). "Radiographs". Radio Digest. Chicago: Radio Digest Publishing. Retrieved February 21, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "Annette Hanshaw Interview with Jack Cullen (1972), part 1 of 2" YouTube
  11. ^ "The Girl on the Cover". What's on the Air. Cincinnati: What's on the Air. November 1930. Retrieved February 21, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Music Industry Killing Internet Radio, Sita Sings the Blues". 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  13. ^ Annette's Birth-date. Accessed January 30, 2007

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