The half-sister of bandleader Ina Ray Hutton, June Hutton is best remembered today for her work with several important vocal groups of the 1940s. She began her band career in 1937 as a member of her sister’s all-girl orchestra, singing under the name of Elaine Merritt both solo and as part of vocal trio the Winsteads. When her sister disbanded in late 1939, she joined the Quintones, a vocal quartet composed of five men and one woman. In early 1940, the group toured as part of Jan Savitt’s orchestra. She remained with the Quintones for more than a year, leaving around the first of 1941 when they were working in the musical Hi Ya, Gentleman, starring Max Baer and Ella Logan. Hutton took a solo part in the play, which failed to make it on to Broadway. She then spent four months as a soloist at the Hotel Astor before joining the Stardusters vocal quartet.
In late 1941, the Stardusters signed with Charlie Spivak’s band, where they were featured heavily in performances and on record. Hutton often sang lead and was at times billed under her own name. Spivak put the Stardusters on notice in September 1943, and the group subsequently quit. Hutton soon left the act and decided to pursue a solo career. In November, she appeared on Bob Crosby’s radio program.
In June 1944, Hutton replaced Jo Stafford as a member of the Pied Pipers. In doing so, she became a member of the Chesterfield family of radio personalities, which included Stafford, orchestra leader Paul Weston, and Johnny Mercer, singer and founder of Capitol Records. Aside from her work with the Pied Pipers, Capitol quickly began to push Hutton as a solo artist. She recorded a duet with Mercer in 1944 and that same year sang with Weston’s orchestra. Though the song was released under Weston’s name, it was designed to highlight Hutton. Even when recording with the Pipers, Hutton was sometimes the featured vocalist, with the credits given as “June Hutton and The Pied Pipers.” She soon began attracting attention, appearing on the cover of Down Beat magazine in November 1944.
By 1945, Capitol’s push for Hutton had ended, and the Pipers settled back down to being a quartet again. They continued recording for Capitol through 1948, producing their biggest hit and first million-seller in early 1945, “Dream.” In 1946 and 1947, the Pipers recorded with Frank Sinatra on Columbia. In 1949, the Pipers signed with RCA Victor.
The Pipers made several film appearances during the Hutton years, including as part of the soundtrack for Walt Disney’s Make Mine Music. They won Down Beat magazine’s annual poll for best vocal combo four years in a row, from the category’s inception in 1945 to 1948. In 1944, they became regulars on the Revere’s All-Star Review radio program on the Mutual network starring Andy Russell, and later Marion Hutton. They toured with Russell during the show’s summer hiatus in 1945 and recorded with him on Capitol in 1948. They also appeared on CBS for Campbell’s soup in 1948.
In late 1949, Hutton left the Pipers to go solo, recording for Decca. She played her first stint in a New York night club as a solo artist in January 1951 at the Copacabana, and on the 20th of that month she quietly married conductor Alex Stordahl in Connecticut. In 1952, she signed with Capitol Records again, where Stordahl backed her on many recordings over the next few years. She and Stordahl often received equal billing, with an all-male vocal group, the Boys Next Door, providing backing vocals. In 1954, she recorded several duets with Gordon McRae.
Hutton appeared in four films during the 1940s singing with the Stardusters and the Pied Pipers, and she made several television appearances in the 1950s, becoming a regular on The Frank Sinatra Show in 1951 and 1952. Her last television appearance was in 1961 on the Westinghouse Playhouse series. She released her final recordings in 1957 on the TOPS label. She went into semi-retirement soon after.
Stordahl passed away in 1963. The couple had two children. In early 1968, Hutton married television actor Kenneth Tobey in Las Vegas. She gave her age as 41 at the time, eight years younger than her actual. June Hutton passed away in 1973 at age 53.
Stordahl and Hutton eloped. Their wedding caught almost everyone by surprise. They married on a Saturday, and Stordahl had to be back at work on Frank Sinatra’s television show on Monday morning. ↩︎
Stordahl was Sinatra’s musical director. When Sinatra married Ava Gardner in November 1951, Stordahl and Hutton were the best man and matron of honor. ↩︎
Hutton was another artist whose age fluctuated over the years. Her accepted birth year is 1919, however in a June 1939 article she gave her age as 21, which would have made it 1917. ↩︎