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Putting names to faces of all-girl band

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

hetty

Many years ago, I bought a photo of an “all girl” band from a vendor in the Strip. As a former tenor sax player, I was taken with the tall women in the sequined dress fronting the band on a tenor and with all the other women in their mid-’40s era frocks and sensible heels.

But especially it was Hetty, whose name I assumed because her bass drum read “Hetty.” I loved Hetty. Teenie Harris captured a look on her face. It was of concentration and restrained joy.

For years, I have wondered who these women were and where they were playing. I was content for a while to make up scenarios: that they were opening for a big national act at the Savoy Ballroom or that they were themselves famous, maybe on the cusp of being discovered.

Then, during an interview with John Brewer, an historian in Homewood, for another story, I asked if he might know.

“Send me a photo and I’ll see if I can help you,” he said.

I snapped a photo of the photo, which hangs behind glass in my downstairs  gallery -- the bathroom, the only room with enough wall space for five images -- and sent him an email of the photo you see here.

Thank you John! Mystery solved:

These women were members of the Rays Band and also performed as the Jewels Band. They are playing in the Pines Room of the Granville Hotel in the Hill District.

Myrtle Young is the band leader, the one in the sequined dress. Gloria Bell is on bass, Hetty Smith on drums, Regina Albright on piano and Willene Barton on the other tenor sax.

I would be pleased to hear from any readers who know any of these women, their children or grandchildren.

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