Annette Hanshaw

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Annette Hanshaw
Hanshaw, c. 1934
Hanshaw, c. 1934
Background information
Birth nameCatherine Annette Hanshaw
Born(1901-10-18)October 18, 1901
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 13, 1985(1985-03-13) (aged 83)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1926–1937
LabelsPathé, Perfect, Columbia
Spouse(s)Herman "Wally" Rose (m. 1929-1954; his death)
Herb Kurtin (m. 1974-1985; her death)

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 late 1920s and early 1930s, with many of her most notable performances taking place on NBC's Maxwell House Show Boat. Over four million of her records had been sold by 1934, following the peak of her popularity.[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]


Hanshaw was born on October 18, 1901, to Frank Wayne Hanshaw and Mary Gertrude McCoy in their residence in Manhattan.[4] She had two brothers, George and Frank.[5]

Her aunt and uncle, 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 store, The Melody Shop, in Mount Kisco, Westchester County, 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 Hanshaw sang on local radio stations while visiting Florida with her family. She first recorded a demo for Pathé featuring a medley of popular songs. Her first commercial recordings, "Black Bottom" and "Six Feet of Papa," were recorded on September 12 and 18, 1926. She recorded for Pathé until 1928; Pathé released her records on both the Pathé and the Perfect labels.[citation needed]

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 Hanshaw's 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, Frank Ferera's Hawaiian Trio and Rudy Vallée's Connecticut Yankees.[5] Some of the artists whose solos were featured on her recordings were Red Nichols, Miff Mole, Phil Napoleon, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Adrian Rollini, Vic Berton, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, and Jack Teagarden.[7][4]

Hanshaw began performing 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.[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, 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 1972 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.

Later years[edit]

In 1954, Herman "Wally" Rose died. Annette Hanshaw later married Herb Kurtin.[2] In 1985, aged 83, she died of cancer in New York City.[5] She had no children.[4]


Collections of Hanshaw's recordings were released on CD by Sensation Records 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]

For many years it was believed that Hanshaw was born in 1910.[13] The Syncopated Times lists her birthday as October 18, 1901, in New York City.[14] Her nephew, Frank W. Hanshaw III, confirmed that 1901 is the year on her birth certificate, the last two numbers of the year having been transposed, possibly by Hanshaw herself to shave years off her true age.[2]

Charted discography[edit]

Year Single Group or
Name / Pseudonym
Record label Peak chart position Total
1928 "For Old Times' Sake" Frank Ferera's Hawaiian Trio
Vocal by Annette Hanshaw
Harmony 10 3
1929 "In A Great Big Way" Gay Ellis 19 1
"Big City Blues" Annette Hanshaw Columbia 10 3
"Am I Blue?" Gay Ellis Harmony 11 2
1930 "Body and Soul" Annette Hanshaw 12 2


  1. ^ a b Matthews, Chester (November 10, 1934). "Apples—Swastikas—Parabolas". Radio Guide. United States. 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. ^ Staff (June 1934). "They Win!". Radio Stars. New York: Dell Publishing. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Staff (2016). "Catherine Annette Hanshaw (profile)". The Hinshaw Family Association. Raw Bandwidth Communications, Inc. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Annette Hanshaw Dies at 74; Singer in 1920s and 1930s". The New York Times. March 19, 1985. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  6. ^ Staff (September 1934). "What Do You Want to Know?". Radio Mirror. New York: Syndicate Magazine Corporation. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "Annette Hanshaw". Red Hot Jazz. Archived from the original on September 27, 2010. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  8. ^ Film clip,; accessed January 30, 2007.
  9. ^ a b Drachman, Rosemary (December 1930). "Radiographs". Radio Digest. Chicago, IL: Radio Digest Publishing. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Annette Hanshaw Interview with Jack Cullen (1972), part 1 of 2" YouTube
  11. ^ Staff (November 1930). "The Girl on the Cover". What's on the Air. Cincinnati. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  12. ^ "Music Industry Killing Internet Radio, Sita Sings the Blues". 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  13. ^ Lists Hanshaw's year of birth as 1910 and states that she started her career at 15 and retired at 24. The liner notes from the CD Lovable & Sweet: 25 Vintage Hits, on the Asv Living Era label, also contain this incorrect information.
  14. ^ Senior, Andy (October 1, 2017). "Annette Hanshaw". Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2015). Pop Memories, The History of American Popular Music 1900-1940.

External links[edit]