In the 1930s, Ina Ray Hutton, billed as the “Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm,” made her name as the leader of one of history’s first all-female big bands.

Born Odessa Cowan in Chicago in 1916, Ina Ray was the older half-sister of singer and actress June Hutton. With the help of Irving Mills, she changed her name in 1934 and formed an all-women orchestra known as the Melodears, which for a time included Toronto pianist Ruth Lowe.

Lowe would later go on to write I’ll Be Seeing You, which was a monster hit for Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, and then was commissioned by Sinatra to write Put Your Dreams Away (for Another Day), which he used as his closing theme for many years.

The Melodears made few recordings but were featured in several movie shorts, which can be seen on YouTube.