"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

  • 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)


  • 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)


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • Diva (led by drummer Sherrie Maricle)