"Black and white all-female big bands were popular on vaudeville stages in the 1920s and 1930s; some broke into the lucrative sphere of ballroom employment during the swing era, and some African-American women's bands became popular attractions on the black theater circuit. During World War II all-girl big bands entertained the troops on racially segregated USO circuits. A number of all-female groups survived the postwar years playing in nightclubs, and some white women found work in all-woman television bands in the 1950s. The tradition of all-female big bands was renewed in the 1970s." (New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, p980-1)

The following is a small representation of the many different types of ensembles that employed female jazz musicians. Information about many of these groups can be found at: "Females and All That Jazz: Big Bands Database Plus Homepage" http://nfo.net/usa/females.html


Pre-1920s:
  • Sophie Tucker's Five Kings of Syncopation, "first jazz band led by a woman"

1920s All-Girl Bands :

  • Bobbie Grice's "Fourteen Bricktops" (member Audry Hall Petroff)
  • Bobbie Howell's "American Syncopators" (member Dolly Jones, trumpet)
  • Gibson Navigators
  • Lovie Austin and Her Blue Serenaders -- 20s-40s
  • Parisian Red Heads
  • Pollyanna Syncopators


Parisian Red Heads -- Big Bands Database


"The Great Depression was a period during which women musicians participated as pianists in men's jazz bands, as instrumentalists in all-girl bands, and as featured players of instruments." (New Grove, p. 981)

1930s

  • African-American all-girl bands
    • Dixie Rhythm Girls
    • Dixie Sweethearts
    • Harlem Playgirls
    • Lil Armstrong All-girl band
    • Vi Burnside Combo (Pauline Brady, drums; Flo Dryer, trumpet; Vi Burnside, tenor saxophone; Edna Smith, bass; Shirley Moore (?), piano

"One more girl band is about all this country needs to send it right back into the depths of the Depression."

Saturday Evening Post, 1936
(
Quoted from Stormy Weather, p.45)

1940s

  • All-girl bands:
    • Ada Leonard's "All American" Girls
    • Beryl Booker Trio (Bonnie Wetzel, bass; Elaine Leighton, drums; Beryl Booker, piano)
    • Darlings of Rhythm
    • Eddie Durham's All-Stars
    • Hip Chicks: Mary Osborne, Marge Hyams, L'Ana Webster
    • International Sweethearts of Rhythm
    • Swinging Rays of Rhythm (Lillian Carter, bass)

International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Bayerisches Jazzinstitut

 
  • Women in men's bands
    • Melba Liston (trombonist) in Gerald Wilson's band
    • Billie Rogers (trumpet) and Marjorie Hyams (vibist) in Woody Herman's band
    • Elsie Smith (saxophonist) in Lionel Hampton's band
    • Jean Starr (trumpet) in Benny Carter's band
  • Mixed bands: Mills Cavalcade Orchestra

1950s

  • Tiny Davis's Hell Drivers (comprised of members of International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Darlings of Rhythm, and the Prairie View Co-eds)
  • Vadel Quintet (from Virigil Whyte's big band)
  • White all-girl television bands: Hutton's and Ada Leonard's bands

1960s-1970s

  • Alive!
  • Big Apple Jazzwomen
  • Carla Bley Band
  • Fostina Dixon "Collage"
  • Maiden Voyage (led by Ann Patterson, reed player)
  • Marian McPartland Trio
  • Melba Liston and Company
  • Sisters in Jazz (NY 1974-7)
  • Sweet Emma Barrett and Her Bell Boys
  • Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Band

Sweet Emma Barrett and Her Bell Boys
All Music Guide

1980s-current

  • Diva (led by drummer Sherrie Maricle)

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