A post in celebration of Women’s History Month
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were the first fully integrated all-girl band, featuring members who were black, white, Latin American, Native American, and Asian. It was founded by Dr. Laurence C. Jones, principal and bandleader of the Piney Woods Country Life School, a Mississippi Orphanage, who (inspired largely by Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears) organized the girls into a viable group as a means of raising money for the school. Starting out in 1937 as the Swinging Rays of Rhythm, by 1941 they had professionalized and changed their name. Other professional musicians were brought in, and they toured the country, including such important venues as Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and Washington D.C.’s Howard. Band members often ended up serving time and jail as the band passed through the segregated south. During World War 2, the band toured with the U.S.O. They broke up in 1946.
To learn more history about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc