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(Article) 'The Secrets of a Blonde-Bombshell'

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  • multiracialbookclub
    THE SECRETS OF ... A BLONDE BOMBSHELL© 2011 Public Radio International / Studio - 360: Feature / Friday, September 30, 2011
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 25, 2011
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      THE SECRETS OF ... 
      A BLONDE BOMBSHELL

      © 2011 Public Radio International Studio -  360: Feature  / Friday, September 30, 2011

          


      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 history.

      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.] 

      CONTRIBUTORS:Phyllis Fletcher
      SOURCE: http://www.studio360.org/2011/sep/30/secrets-of-a-blonde-bombshell/
      © 2011 Public Radio International / STUDIO- 360 / Feature Story


      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


      Hutton, Ina Ray, née
      '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. 

      Ina Ray Hutton & Her Orchestra: 1943-44 Spotlight Band Broadcasts  

      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. 

      Sources:

      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).

      Contributor: Fletcher, Phyllis
      University of Washington, Seattle
      SOURCE:  http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/hutton-ina-ray-nee-odessa-cowan-1916-1984 


        
    • Tyrone Anderson
      Thanks for sharing and Happy Holidays ... wrote: From: multiracialbookclub Subject: [Generation-Mixed] (Article)
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 26, 2011
      • 0 Attachment
        Thanks for sharing and Happy Holidays



        --- On Mon, 12/26/11, multiracialbookclub <soaptalk@...> wrote:


        From: multiracialbookclub <soaptalk@...>
        Subject: [Generation-Mixed] (Article) 'The Secrets of a Blonde-Bombshell'
        To: Generation-Mixed@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Monday, December 26, 2011, 2:46 AM

         

        THE SECRETS OF ... 
        A BLONDE BOMBSHELL

        � 2011 Public Radio International Studio -  360: Feature  / Friday, September 30, 2011

            


        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 history.

        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.] 

        CONTRIBUTORS:Phyllis Fletcher
        SOURCE: http://www.studio360.org/2011/sep/30/secrets-of-a-blonde-bombshell/
        � 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. 

        Ina Ray Hutton & Her Orchestra: 1943-44 Spotlight Band Broadcasts  

        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. 

        Sources:

        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).


          
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