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--- On Mon, 12/26/11, multiracialbookclub <soaptalk@...> wrote:
From: multiracialbookclub <soaptalk@...>
Subject: [Generation-Mixed] (Article) 'The Secrets of a Blonde-Bombshell'
Date: Monday, December 26, 2011, 2:46 AM
THE SECRETS OF ...
A BLONDE BOMBSHELL
In the 1930s, Ina Ray Hutton conducted, tapped, and sang as
the "blonde bombshell bandleader,"strutting her stuff in front of her
all �female swing band, the Melodears. (You can't make this stuff up.)
She led bands through the 1950s � in clubs, in movies, on TV, on the
USO circuit � and was the first female bandleader to be recorded and filmed.
She wasn't a legend or an innovator, but a
hard �working musician who played a role in jazz
Decades later, a news reporter from KUOW in Seattle
looked at one of her albums and felt something was odd:
the blonde bombshell, she thought, might have been
[of a mixed-race ancestral lineage that included, black].
Phyllis Fletcher discovered that Ina Ray
Hutton had been "passing" as White
[which was the (inaccurate) phrase once used to
describe the Mixed-Race people who, due to the
racial biases of their day, had to make sure that the
fact of their black
ancestral lineage remained hidden
... and Ms. Hutton's full-lineage remained secret
while Ina Ray remained] -- hiding in the spotlight.
[Note: This story calls Hutton's Melodears the
first all-girl band to be recorded and filmed.
A few all-girl bands were recorded or filmed earlier, including
the Ingenues and Jean Rankin's Bluebells Orchestra.]
� 2011 Public Radio International / STUDIO- 360 / Feature Story
Hutton, Ina Ray, n�e
'Odessa Cowan' (1916-1984)
Ina Ray Hutton led the Melodears, one of the first
all-female swing bands to be recorded and filmed.
She [was compelled to keep the black portion
of her Multiracial ancestral lineage a secret]
throughout her musical career, as the leader of
several bands from the 1930s through the 1960s.
But when Hutton was a child, United States Census
records called her and her family "negro," and
"mulatto," when the Bureau used that term.
Her family occasionally appeared in the
society pages of a "black" newspaper.
As of this writing, other biographies of Hutton do not
acknowledge [the black portion of her] heritage.
Hutton was born Odessa Cowan at her
parents' home in Chicago on March 13, 1916.
Her mother, Marvel (Williams) Cowan, was a
housewife, married to Odie Cowan, a salesman.
By the time Odessa was three years old, she and
her mother were living with her maternal grandmother,
and her step-grandfather, a dining
car waiter for a railroad.
That year, Odessa's sister, June, was born at home.
When the census taker arrived a few months later, their
father was not recorded as a resident of the family home.
Odessa and June grew up among black
neighbors on Chicago's South Side.
Their mother played piano in
dance halls and hotel ballrooms.
Odessa studied dance with a prominent black
teacher and choreographer, Hazel Thompson Davis.
The Cowans' hometown "black" newspaper, The ChicagoDefender,
first wrote glowingly of Odessa's performances when she was seven.
But the next year, despite the fact that she had the same South Side address
into her teens, mentions of Odessa Cowan in the Defender disappeared.
By some accounts, that was the year she was
"discovered" by a white vaudeville producer.
In 1930, at age 14, she made her Broadway debut
with Gus Edwards at the Palace Theater in New York.
As Ina Ray, at age 16, she was a featured singer and dancer
in George White's "Melody;" at 17, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies.
In 1934, when Ina Ray was just 18, the managerIrving Mills
formed an all-female band and made her the leader.
Mills added "Hutton" to her stage name, to capitalize
on the notoriety of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton.
The group was called Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears.
Hutton toured with the Melodears for five years.
Known as the "Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm,"
she conducted her band
with her whole body,
changing costumes several times each show,
from one strappy, sequined gown to the next.
In the 1940s Hutton went brunette and led a male band.
But the novelty of all-female bands still held enough appeal
that Hutton organized another one in 1951 for "The Ina Ray
Hutton Show" on television, and earned five Emmys.
The show aired on the west coast for four years,
and for a summer season nationally on NBC.
Hutton continued as a singer and bandleader through the 1960s.
Hutton died of complications from
diabetes on February 19,
1984, at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California.
She was preceded in death by her fourth husband
Jack Curtis, and by her sister, the singer June Hutton.
Author interview of Susan Stordahl Porter, January 26, 2011.
US Census 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 3, Cook
(Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_312; Page: 6B;
Enumeration District: 135; Image: 882. US Census 1930;
Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 419; Page:
11A; Enumeration District: 85; Image: 53.0;
Nora Douglas Holt, "Dancing Dolls a Success,"
The Chicago Defender (July 14, 1923, p. 5);
Kristin A. McGee, Some Liked It Hot: Jazz
Women in Film and Television, 1928-1955
(Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2009).