Ina Ray Hutton

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Ina Ray Hutton
Ina Ray Hutton Billboard.jpg
Odessa Cowen

(1916-03-13)March 13, 1916
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedFebruary 19, 1984(1984-02-19) (aged 67)
Ventura, California
  • Edwin Jessup
  • Charles Doerwald (29 July 1939 – February 1940) [2]
  • Lou Parisotto (27 October 1943 – December 1946) [3]
  • Randy Brooks (15 April 1949 – 1957) [4]
  • Michael Anter (31 May 1958 – 1960) [5]
  • John "Jack" Franklin Curtis (13 March 1963 – 28 December 1979)

Odessa Cowan, better known by her stage name Ina Ray Hutton (March 13, 1916 – February 19, 1984), was an American vocalist, bandleader, and the sister of June Hutton.


Ina Ray Hutton (March 13, 1916 – February 19, 1984) was born Odessa Cowan in Chicago, Illinois to parents Marvel Svea Williams and Odie Daniel Cowan. She began dancing and singing in stage revues at the age of eight under the guidance of her then tap and stage dance instructor, Hazel Thompson-Davis. Cowan's mother Marvel Ray was a local pianist and entertainer in Chicago. By the age of 13, Odessa was considered so advanced that she skipped eighth grade and went straight to high school at Hyde Park High School. By the time she was 18 years old, Odessa (Ina Ray) was a seasoned performer. She had starred in Gus Edwards' revue "Future Stars Troupe" at the Palace Theater and Lew Leslie's "Clowns in Clover," and on Broadway she performed in George White's revues: "Melody", "Never Had An Education," and "Scandals", and then on to the Ziegfeld Follies, all by the time she was 18.

In 1934, she was approached by Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears, which featured musicians including trumpet player Frances Klein, Canadian pianist Ruth Lowe Sandler, saxophonist Jane Cullum, guitarist Marian Gange, trumpeter Mardell "Owen" Winstead and trombonist Alyse Wells during its existence. Hutton and her Melodears were one of the first all-girl bands to be filmed for Paramount shorts, including Accent on Girls and Swing Hutton Swing and Hollywood feature films under the management of national booking agent Irving Mills. The group disbanded in 1939. In 1940 she led an all-male orchestra that was featured in the film Ever Since Venus (1944); it was disbanded in 1949. During the 1950s, she returned to the all-girl format for a variety television program, The Ina Ray Hutton Show, which ran from 1951 to 1956 on Paramount Television Network's flagship station KTLA in Los Angeles.

Ina Ray Hutton ad for a concert at the Army Air Base, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 22, 1942


Although Ina Ray Hutton and some members of her family members are known to have been considered "White," historians have long theorized that Ina Ray (Odessa) 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".[1] Hutton was also mentioned under her original name in the black Chicago newspaper The Chicago Defender several times in articles describing the early years of her career. A photograph of her as a 7-year-old dancer appeared in a 1924 issue of the paper.[2]

Personal life[edit]

She married and divorced:

  • Edwin Jessup
  • Charles Doerwald [3]
  • Lou Parisotto [4]
  • Randy Brooks [5]
  • Michael Anter [6]
  • John "Jack" Franklin Curtis (13 March 1963 - 28 December 1979) HIS DEATH [7]

She retired from music in 1968 and died on 19 February 1984 of complications from diabetes, aged 67.


  1. ^ ["Secrets of famous 1930s ‘blonde bombshell of rhythm’ revealed with help from UW library", Molly McElroy, UW News, March 27, 2012, University of Washington]
  2. ^ ["Secrets of famous 1930s ‘blonde bombshell of rhythm’ revealed with help from UW library", Molly McElroy, UW News, March 27, 2012, University of Washington]
  3. ^ Commonwealth of, Virginia (29 July 1939). "Certificate of Marriage". Fauquier County.
  4. ^ Crittenden, Arkansas (27 October 1943). "County Marriages".
  5. ^ Newspaper, Archive (27 June 1957). "Nevada State Journal: Reno".
  6. ^ Newspaper, Archive (14 December 1960). "Reno Evening Gazette".
  7. ^ Newspaper, Archive. "Omaha World Herald" (27 March 1963).