Ina Ray Hutton

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Ina Ray Hutton
Hutton in 1942
Hutton in 1942
Background information
Birth nameOdessa Cowan
Born(1916-03-13)March 13, 1916
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedFebruary 19, 1984(1984-02-19) (aged 67)
Ventura, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, big band
Occupation(s)Singer, bandleader
Years active1926–1968

Ina Ray Hutton (born Odessa Cowan; March 13, 1916 – February 19, 1984)[1] was an American singer, bandleader, and the elder sister of June Hutton.[2] She led one of the first all-female big bands.


Ad for a Hutton 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.[3][4] Her mother was a pianist in Chicago.[4] At age 15, she starred in the Gus Edwards revue Future Stars Troupe at the Palace Theater[4] 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 of 1934.[5]

In 1934, she was approached by Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears,[6] As part of the group's formation, Mills asked her to change her name.[4] 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.[citation needed]

The Melodears appeared in short films and in the movie Big Broadcast of 1936. They recorded six songs, sung by Hutton, before disbanding in 1939.[3] Soon after, she started the Ina Ray Hutton Orchestra (with men only) that included George Paxton and Hal Schaefer.[3]

The band appeared in the film Ever Since Venus (1944), recorded for Elite and Okeh,[7] and performed on the radio. After this band broke up, she started another male band a couple years later.[3] She married jazz trumpeter Randy Brooks.[3]

During the 1950s, Hutton formed a female big band that played on television and starred in The Ina Ray Hutton Show.[3] She retired from music in 1968 and died at the age of 67 on February 19, 1984, from complications due to diabetes.[8]


Although Hutton and some members of her family are thought to have been white,[citation needed] 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".[9] Hutton was also mentioned under her birth name Odessa Cowan in the African American Chicago newspaper The Chicago Defender in several articles describing the early years of her career. A photograph of her as a 7-year-old dancer in an all-Black dance troupe appeared in a 1924 issue of the paper.[9]

Personal life[edit]

She was married and divorced five times and had no children:

  • Charles Doerwald, a traveling salesman. They eloped and were married July 29, 1939.[10] However, Doerwald's divorce from his current wife was not final and his marriage to Hutton was annulled.[11]
  • Louis P. Parisotto, saxophonist with Hutton's all-male band. Married October 27, 1943.[12] Divorced December 3, 1946.[13]
  • Randy Brooks, trumpeter. Married April 10, 1949.[14] Divorced June 1957.[15]
  • Michael Anter, owner of a beauty salon in Las Vegas. Married May 31, 1958.[16] Divorced 1960.[17]
  • John "Jack" Franklin Curtis, owner of a tool company. Married April 13, 1963.[18] Divorced December 29, 1979.[citation needed]


  • Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears (Vintage Music, 2001)
  • The Definitive Collection (Fantastic Voyage, 2011)[19]


  1. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1215. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ Pool, Jeannie Gayle (2008). Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band. Scarecrow Press. p. 92. ISBN 9781461737346. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Yanow, Scott (2008). The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide. Backbeat. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-87930-825-4.
  4. ^ a b c d McGee, Kristin A. (2010). Some Liked It Hot: Jazz Women in Film and Television, 1928–1959. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 86–110. ISBN 9780819569677. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  5. ^ "Ina Ray". Playbill. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  6. ^ Lee, William F. (2005). American Big Bands. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 183. ISBN 9780634080548. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  7. ^ Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. (2008). Music of the World War II Era. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 67. ISBN 9780313338915. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  8. ^ "Ina Ray Hutton, Band Leader in 40's and 50's". The New York Times. February 22, 1984. p. D21. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  9. ^ a b McElroy, Molly (March 27, 2012). "Secrets of famous 1930s 'blonde bombshell of rhythm' revealed with help from UW library". UW News. University of Washington. Archived from the original on August 2, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  10. ^ Commonwealth of, Virginia (July 29, 1939). "Certificate of Marriage". Fauquier County.
  11. ^ "Ina Ray Hutton Asks Annulment of Marriage". Burlington Daily News. Burlington, VT. February 2, 1940. p. 10. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  12. ^ Crittenden, Arkansas (October 27, 1943). "County Marriages".
  13. ^ "Band Leader Granted Divorce from Musician". The Morning News. Wilmington, DE. December 14, 1946. p. 15. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  14. ^ "Brooks to Marry Ina Ray Hutton". The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 9, 1949. p. 3. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  15. ^ Newspaper, Archive (June 27, 1957). "Nevada State Journal: Reno".
  16. ^ "Ina Ray Hutton Weds Hairdresser". News-Pilot. San Pedro, CA. June 2, 1958. p. 1. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  17. ^ Newspaper, Archive (December 14, 1960). "Reno Evening Gazette".
  18. ^ "Ina Ray Hutton to Wed". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, KY. March 27, 1963. p. 14. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  19. ^ Stanley, Bob (July 7, 2011). "Ina Ray Hutton: The Forgotten Female Star of 1930s Jazz". The Guardian. Archived from the original on August 2, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2019.