Recollecting Ramona of the Radio

Young singer/pianist Estrild Raymona Myers (1909-1972) performed under the single name “Ramona”, much like the incomparable Hildegard, and “Jerry” (she of the Baby Grands). In her day, it was necessary to assert that the name was not drawn from the then famous novel and film, but was derived from her given name. In any case, in our day, she’s mighty hard to Google. Adding the word “singer” doesn’t help — “Ramona Singer” is one of the Real Housewives!

At any rate, OUR Ramona grew up in Kentucky, where she learned piano from her mom, and began playing professionally in local hotels by age 12. Her first job performing on the radio was in Kansas City; later she moved to Pittsburgh, where at age 16 she was hired to front the orchestra of bandleader Don Bestor. Ramona toured the country with this outfit, then developed her own solo vaudeville act, with which she toured the Keith, Orpheum, and Loew’s vaudeville circuits. From 1932 to 1937 she was one of the stars of Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, and this is the peak of her career. Under Whiteman’s auspices she toured live venues throughout the country and on Whiteman’s radio show, as well as Al Jolson’s, Kraft Music Hall. She also sang on records and appeared in the films Well, By George (1934) with Georgie Price; Social Register (1934) with Colleen Moore; Eggs Mark the Spot (1935), and Thanks a Million (1935) with Dick Powell. After breaking with Whiteman in 1937 over a salary dispute, she toured and performed in radio with her own band and solo act through 1948, when she retired to raise her child. In 1944 she married sports announcer Al Delfer.

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To learn more about vaudeville history, including variety television, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous