Band Leader. During the Big band era, she was noted for leading one of the first all-female swing bands to be recorded and filmed. Born Odessa Cowan, she began dancing and singing in stage revues at the age of eight. She made her Broadway debut at the Palace Theater New York in 1930 and joined the Ziegfeld Follies as a featured singer and dancer in 1932. In 1934, at age 18, her manager Irving Mills formed an all-female band with her as leader and called the group Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears, with her sister June Hutton as the singer. The Melodears were an instant hit, touring solidly for five years playing live coast to coast and on radio shows, plus recording for the Elite and Victor labels. Her group was also the first all-female band to appear in films, such as the Paramount movie shorts "Feminine Rhythm" (1935), "Accent on Girls" (1936), "Big Band Broadcast" (1936) and "Swing, Hutton, Swing" (1937). After the Melodears broke up in 1939, she organized an all-male band which played through out the forties and she was featured in her own starring role in the Columbia musical, "Ever Since Venus" (1944). During the 1950s, her NBC television series, "The Ina Ray Hutton Show" aired (1951-56) and earned five Emmys. Although an African American, she passed for white throughout her musical career and was known as the "Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm". Her last performance was in the film, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (1975). She died at age 67 from diabetes.
Bio by: John "J-Cat" Griffith
Randolph E. Brooks