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The Melodears, also known as Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears, was an American all-female band. The band was led by singer Ina Ray Hutton and featured several musicians during its existence. The band formed in 1934, originally as a 15-member band, and was disbanded in 1939 by Hutton, who soon afterwards formed an all-male orchestra.[1] They were the first all-female band to be recorded, initially for Vocalion Records in 1934[2] and later for RCA Victor.

Band members[edit]

Hutton was the bandleader and singer. When the band was first formed in 1934, she was 18 years old.[3] She was often billed as the "Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm".[4]

The band recruited several top female musicians from the United States and Canada. The original 1934 band consisted of trumpeters Kay Walsh, Estelle Slavin, and Elvirah Roh, trombonists Ruth McMurray and Althea Heuman, Ruth Bradley, saxophonists and clarinetists Betty Stitcht, Helen Ruth, and Audrey Hall, pianists Jerrine Hyde and Miriam Greenfield, guitarists Helen Baker, bassist Marie Lebz, and drummer Lil Singer.[1]

Later notable band members included trumpet player Frances Klein, pianist Ruth Lowe Sandler, who played from 1934 to 1938, saxophonist Jane Cullum, guitarist Marian Gange, trumpeter Mardell "Owen" Winstead, and trombonist Alyse Wells. Mirian Stiglitz Saperstein also toured with the band as a saxophonist in the 1930s.[2] In 1936, Ruth Lowe became the band's new pianist after the previous pianist took ill. Virginia Mayers became the drummer after Lil Singer.[5]


In 1934 Hutton was approached by Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-female orchestra, the Melodears. The group disbanded in 1939.

Hutton and her Melodears were one of the first all-female bands to be filmed. They filmed several shorts for Paramount Pictures including Feminine Rhythm (1935), Accent on Girls (1936) and Swing Hutton Swing (1937). They also filmed one feature-length movie, The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935).

Melodears Vocal Trio[edit]

There was an independent vocal trio, founded by Arleen Reuse in Chicago in the late 1930s. It lasted into the latter half of the 1940s, traveling around the country, especially the Midwest, and appearing on the first commercial television station in Chicago. Though it had at least one change in membership, Arleen Reuse kept things together, arranged gigs, etc. To the best of this archivist's knowledge, there was no connection between the Arleen Reuse's trio and Hutton's band, nor does he think that either group stole the name from the other. The similar names were, in all likelihood, coincidence.

During World War Two, the Melodears Trio were guests on the US Treasury Savings Bond TV Show, a live broadcast from WBKB,[6] the first TV station in Chicago Illinois. This 1944 broadcast [7] includes 13 minutes from one broadcast, including three Melo-Dears songs and interviews with Arleen Reuse, Betty Jane Folitch (sp?) and Edna Beldsoe (sp?), who had been the trio for several years. At another time, the trio consisted of Arleen Reuse, Amy (later Wade) and Corinne (last name forgotten).

Two images of the Melo-Dears trio can be found here [8] and here.[9] Arleen Reuse is on the left in both pictures. Their travel assistant is in the second picture.

This material was submitted by Arleen Gladys Reuse (Knoderer)'s oldest children, John and David. The audio from the TV broadcast came from Arleen's personal files, discovered after her death.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Linda Dahl (1984). Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen. Limelight Editions. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-87910-128-2.
  2. ^ a b Kristin A. McGee (1 March 2010). Some Liked It Hot: Jazz Women in Film and Television, 1928–1959. Wesleyan University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-8195-6967-7.
  3. ^ Wilson, Carolyn (25 March 2012). "All-women bands enjoyed popularity during WWII". The Lawton Constitution.
  4. ^ William H. Young; Nancy K. Young (2010). World War II and the Postwar Years in America: A Historical and Cultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-313-35652-0.
  5. ^ Angela Smith (10 April 2014). Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country. Scarecrow Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-8108-8835-7.
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  9. ^ "Very old Lutheran pictures".