Gloria Parker

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Gloria Parker in a 1944 advertisement

"Glorious" Gloria Parker is an American entertainer and female icon during the big band or swing era, as an all girl bandleader. The Gloria Parker Show aired nightly from 1950 to 1957, coast to coast on WABC Radio and Parker entertained her audience playing the marimba, organ and the singing glasses or glass harp. Parker (Princess of the Marimba) conducted the 21-piece Swingphony broadcasting nationally from the Kelly Lyceum Ballroom in Buffalo, New York. This was the largest big band ever led by a female bandleader. Edgar Battle and Footsie Thomas were engaged as arrangers for the Swingphony.

Parker is also known for her starring roles in the music films or Soundies. Broadway And Main with Stepin Fetchit, Four Letters, Here Comes The Fatest 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 all of the above-mentioned popular music films. The Soundies were viewed on the Panoram, a coin-operated film jukebox, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, amusement parks and community centers.


Early life[edit]

Parker was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Rita Rose, a musician, who studied the Violin 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.

In the early 1950s, Gloria Parker and Vincent Lopez hosted a radio program on WABC broadcast Saturday afternoon from the Taft Hotel in Manhattan called Shake the Maracas in which audience members competed for prizes by playing maracas with the orchestra. In addition, Parker and her Orchestra 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 with 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 agree 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 the musicians and earned the title as the "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[edit]

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.

Special appearances[edit]


Swing era music[edit]

  • "In Santiago by the Sea" by Gloria Parker and recorded by Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra.
  • "Tonight Be Tender To Me" by Gloria Parker and recorded by Una Mae Carlisle.
  • "Daddy From Georgia Way" recorded by Bob Chester and his Orchestra on Columbia Records, lyrics and music by Daisy Lawton, a pen name for Gloria Parker.
  • "Marimba Merengue" by Gloria Parker
  • "Stars and Stripes Forever Merengue" by Gloria Parker
  • "The Best Idea You Had" by Gloria Parker and recorded by Una Mae Carlisle with Bob Chester and his Orchestra.
  • "The Up and Down Mambo" by Gloria Parker
  • "The Sweetest Words I Know" by Gloria Parker on Columbia Records with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
  • "Shake The Maracas" lyrics and music by Gloria Parker, and name of a radio program on WABC hosted by Gloria Parker and Vincent Lopez
  • "The Dixieland Rhumba" lyrics and music by Gale Porter, a pen name for Gloria Parker.


  1. ^ McShane, Larry (June 11, 2012). "Long Island glasspiel virtuoso Gloria Parker still has the magic touch". New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved July 3, 2016. 


  • Radio Music Live 1920–1950, A Pictorial Gamut by Morris N. Young and John C. Stoltzfus, Published by Arrangement with Life Music, Inc., pp. 47, 50, 237, 239, 240, 241
  • Singing Glasses is also the name of a 1980 record album composed by Gloria Parker playing the glass harp.
  • Life, May 1959, "Rising to a Point of Disorder", Famous One Share Stockholder Gloria Parker confronting Radio Corporation of America (RCA) with Billings-Gate at the annual stock holder meeting.

External links[edit]