vital stats:
given name   Odessa Cowen
birth   1916?, IL
death   Feb. 1984, Ventura, CA, complications resulting from diabetes
training   American Conservatory of Music, Chicago, 1927
half-sister   June Hutton, a vocalist, d.May 2, 1973
first husband  
second husband   Randy Brooks, a trumpeter-bandleader, m.Apr. 10, 1949, div. June 25, 1957,
    d.Mar. 21, 1967, smoke inhalation   
third husband  
fourth husband   Jack Curtis, a businessman, m.1960s, d.1981
residence   17430 Parthenia St., Northridge, CA, 1950s [ "$75,000 ranch" ]

    This is not to say that she didn't lead good bands.
    In 1934, she started her first all-female orchestra, billed as "Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears."
    They made only a few sides for Victor and Vocalion, but they did appear in a Paramount feature film, "The Big Broadcast of 1936," as well as at least three film shorts between 1935-37.
    When Hutton re-organized her band in 1940, she hired all men.
    They made just eight sides for Okeh in 1940-41, four on the Elite label in December of '41, and some transcriptions for both Standard and World in 1942.
    During World War II, Hutton and her band recorded a couple songs on a V-Disc for distribution to servicemen, and performed in such locations as Quonset Point, Rhode Island; Spence Field in Georgia; Fort Monroe, Virginia; Camp Gruber in Oklahoma; and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
    Asked to appear on the new medium of TV in 1950, she put together a fresh, all-female group, which premiered on May 18th that year over Los Angeles station KTLA, live from the Santa Monica Ballroom.  The telecast eventually moved to the Melrose Theatre (across from the Paramount Studios) in Hollywood, continuing for a number of years.  The show was consistently rated high, even beating "Mr. Television" himself, comedian Milton Berle.
    A couple of extant episodes of her "Purex" program from 1956 include a combination of old-time tunes, one or two current pops, even something titled Rock and Roll At the Teenage Hop.
    As late as 1959 Hutton was still making personal appearances, such as when she fronted a 6-piece band at the old Tudor Arms Hotel on Carnegie Ave. in Cleveland.

in her own words:
    "If a girl got sick or decided to get married it was horrible trying to replace her . . . You'd be surprised
    how hard it is to find a good female trumpet player."

    "From 1940 to '50 I had an all-male orchestra with some of the top sidemen in the business . . . But
    when a television offer came along for an all-girl group I formed a new band."

    "I'm selling the show as a music program, not on a sex-appeal basis . . . But if curves attract an
    audience, so much the better."

    During a presentation in 2007 by photographer-author Duncan Schiedt to members of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors, a few images of Hutton were gratuitously inserted into his program, without warning.  You should have heard the older men whoop and holler, even after all the years!
"Deaths Elsewhere: Ina Ray Hutton; led all-woman band," Cleveland [ OH ] Plain Dealer,
    Feb. 21, 1984.
Charles Garrod, Ina Ray Hutton and Her Orchestra (Zephyrhills, FL: Joyce Record Club,
Peggy Gilbert, "The Blonde Bombshell: Ina Ray Hutton," Overture, Apr. 1984, p.4.
"Husband Sues Ina Ray Hutton for Support," Los Angeles Times, June 18, 1957, p.2.
"Ina Ray Hutton and Mate Agree on Divorce," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 10, 1957, p.B1.
"Obituaries: Ina Hutton, sexy leader of all-girl band," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 21, 1984, p.D8.
"Randy Brooks, 49, Band Leader in 40's," New York Times, Mar. 22, 1967, p.47.
"Sexy bandleader Ina Ray Hutton dies," Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 21, 1984, p.64.
Joel Whitburn, Pop Memories 1890-1954: The History of American Popular Music
    (Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc., 1986), p.222.

    I would like to expand this tribute, if possible, with a new interview of someone who was important to Ina Ray Hutton's life and career.  Are you an alumnus of her band, a member of her family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about her accomplishments?  Please contact me via e-mail

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The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
September 2008

    It was once quipped that her band was "a sure-fire  combination of sax and sex," that she was a Lana Turner look-a-like, or a predecessor to Marilyn Monroe.
    Without question, Ina Ray Hutton was among the very small number of prominent female leaders during the Big Band Era, and was, seemingly to any male's judgement, a curvaceous, gorgeous woman. 
    She began her career at the age of 7 or 8, as a song-and-dance performer on Broadway.
    If she played "at" the piano only passably, it didn't matter.
Her "Esquire-girl" figure and suggestive gyrations captured and kept her audience's attention.
Photo by Bruno of Hollywood.