Ina Ray Hutton

Photo of Ina Ray Hutton
  • Birth Name

    Odessa Cowan
  • Born

    March 13, 1916
    Chicago, Illinois
  • Died

    February 19, 1984 (age 67)
    Ventura, California

The half-sis­ter of singer June Hutton, Ina Ray Hutton was the most promi­nent fe­male leader dur­ing the big band era. She gained no­to­ri­ety dur­ing the 1930s for both her mu­sic and her se­duc­tive stage per­sona, earn­ing her the nick­name Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm.”

Ina Ray be­gan singing and danc­ing at the age of eight. During the early 1930s, she ap­peared in the Ziegfeld Follies and the George White Scandals and in 1934 was asked to front an all-girl or­ches­tra, the Melodears, with which she ap­peared in sev­eral Paramount mu­si­cal shorts. The group achieved some pop­u­lar­ity, mainly as a nov­elty act. It dis­banded in 1939. June Hutton sang with the out­fit un­der the name Elaine Merritt.

In 1940, Ina Ray changed her hair color and formed an all-male or­ches­tra. Though her new out­fit was quite tal­ented, it was her se­duc­tive sway­ing and danc­ing on stage that helped gain the group a fol­low­ing. Sax player and arranger George Paxton, to whom Ina Ray had re­port­edly of­fered fifty per­cent of her prof­its to join the band, played a large part in the or­ches­tra’s suc­cess, be­com­ing mu­si­cal di­rec­tor and de facto leader un­til he left to form his own group in May 1944. Standout mu­si­cians in­cluded gui­tarist Jack Purcell and pi­anist Hal Schaefer. Stuart Foster served as male vo­cal­ist. The Kim Loo Sisters, a vo­cal trio, also sang.

In 1944, Ina Ray starred in the Columbia pro­duc­tion Ever Since Venus, her only ma­jor film role. She tem­porar­ily dis­banded her or­ches­tra in August 1944, cit­ing a need to rest, but was back on the band­stand in December, where she stayed un­til per­ma­nently dis­band­ing in December 1946. In mid-1947, she be­came in­volved in a scan­dal when the wife of band­leader Randy Brooks filed for sep­a­ra­tion and ac­cused Hutton of hav­ing an af­fair with her hus­band. She and Brooks mar­ried in 1949 and set­tled on the West Coast, where she formed a new all-girl or­ches­tra which ap­peared on a re­gional tele­vi­sion pro­gram from 1951 to 1955, with a brief net­work run in 1956. She re­tired from mu­sic in 1968 and died in 1984 of com­pli­ca­tions from di­a­betes.

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  • A Handful of Stars
    Ina Ray Hutton (Stuart Foster), Okeh (1940)

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