Best remembered today for her work with husband Boyd Raeburn’s progressive jazz orchestra of the mid-1940s, vocalist Ginnie Powell got her start in 1943, at age 17, with Raeburn’s 15-piece dance band. By December she’d joined Jerry Wald’s group, where she stayed until becoming part of Gene Krupa’s outfit in October 1944. She remained with Krupa, joining Lillian Lane as one of two female singers, through at least April 1945.
In early 1946, Powell was back with Raeburn, whom she’d married by that time, singing for his new progressive band, though she’d left by March to join Harry James. When James took his band East in June, Powell stayed behind on the West Coast to remain with her husband, once again becoming his female vocalist. She sang two numbers on Raeburn’s groundbreaking Innovations album in 1946 and appeared in one musical short with the orchestra.
Raeburn soon lost interest in his band, and in November 1947 he and Powell planned to sign with Majestic records, where Powell was to sing with solo billing, backed by his orchestra. The deal fell through in December, though the couple had already recorded five masters by then, despite the fact that no contract had been signed. Majestic gave copies of the masters to Raeburn, and the couples’ agent, Willard Alexander, shopped them around to various labels. Atlantic Records, a new company at that time, eventually purchased them in April 1948 and later released them. Majestic’s copies of the masters were auctioned off in October of that year after the label went bankrupt.
Powell kept busy as a solo artist with radio and nightclub work in 1948 and 1949. She made appearances as a vocalist on Morey Amsterdam’s radio and television programs from 1948 to 1950 and also on Ed Sullivan’s television show in 1949. In early 1949, she signed with Decca, releasing two sides in February. Raeburn put together short-lived touring outfits in 1949 and early 1950 with Powell as vocalist. She took a break from show business in late 1950, though, to have the couple’s first child. In the spring of 1951, she returned to singing in clubs and on the radio until taking another, much longer, break late the following year for the birth of their second child.
When Raeburn formed a new commercial dance band in 1956, Powell returned to singing, touring with the orchestra through late 1958. Raeburn eventually gave up his music career, and the couple moved from their New York home to Nassau in the Bahamas, where Powell passed away from meningitis and pneumonia on the 25th or 26th of July, 1959. She was 33 years old.
Powell suffered from a speech impediment all her life and stammered, especially on the telephone. She once admitted to using carrot juice on her hair to bring out its “red glints.”
- Powell’s first name is often misspelled “Ginny.” Record labels of the time and publicity material released by her agent, Willard Alexander, spelled it “Ginnie.”
- Sources at various times indirectly cited her as having sang for Charlie Barnet and Benny Goodman, though no direct sources verify those claims.
- Obituaries dated July 29 and 30th, 1959, cite her date of death as “last weekend” without giving a specific day.