A while back we featured singer June Hutton, but today it’s her older sister’s turn in the spotlight. Ina Ray Hutton was probably best known for leading an all-girl band (although she later fronted male groups too) and had so much flash and charisma that she was sometimes billed as the Blonde Bombshell Of Rhythm. But she was also a talented singer and dancer who starred on Broadway, found spots in several movies, and eventually even appeared on early TV.
Born in Chicago as Odessa Cowan, she was an early starter who began dancing in stage shows in the 1920s when she was just eight. By her teen years she’d become an experienced performer on Broadway, singing and dancing in several shows, including the famous Ziegfeld Follies. But her real breakout occurred in the early 1930s when she teamed up with music business pro Irving Mills to form an all-girl orchestra.
Although the band they named the Melodears was musically solid, the gorgeous Ina Ray was the unquestioned star. Dancing and singing while dressed in slinky outfits and always exuding tons of sex appeal, she helped lead the act into stardom throughout the decade. During its peak years the band not only made a lot of good records, but also appeared in several musical short films. Ina Ray also managed an occasional Hollywood cameo herself, but by the beginning of the 1940s things had slowed and the group had dissolved.
During the war years and beyond Ina Ray stayed busy, presenting a new look by leading a conventional male band while toning down her act a little. But she was still a lively and eye-catching presence fronting the band, and it did very well throughout the decade. In the 1950s she once again formed an all-girl band that made its biggest impact in clubs and on TV, finding success regionally for several years but failing in a brief try nationally. She finally retired from music in the 1960s and was 67 when she died in 1984.