June Hutton

aka Elaine Merritt

Photo of June Hutton

Singer June Hutton is best remembered today for her work with three important vocal groups of the 1940s, most notably the Stardusters and the Pied Pipers. Hutton left group work behind in 1950 and focused on her solo career, appearing regularly on television during that decade and recording for Decca and Capitol, often backed by her husband, conductor Alex Stordahl. By the late 1950s, however, she had gone into semi-retirement and only occasionally performed thereafter.

Though Hutton passed for white in later years, she was actually of mixed-race heritage, being identified as “mulatto” on the 1920 census and “negro” on the 1930 census. Both her parents were considered black, as was she, by legal definitions of the time. Hutton grew up in the Chicago home of her maternal grandparents, along with her mother and older sister, Odessa, who later went on to fame as bandleader Ina Ray Hutton. Hutton’s mother was a musician who used the stage name Marvel Williams.[1] Hutton’s legal father, Odie Cowen, was Ina Ray’s biological father but not June’s, though he was still married to Williams at the time of June’s birth. Cowen and Williams had separated by then, and her mother remarried in 1922 to fellow musician Raymond Whitsett. By the mid-1930s, June, Ina Ray, and their mother were identifying as white on public records, as was Odie.

Having a musical mother and step-father, both June and Ina Ray began working in show business at an early age. In 1934, booking agent Irving Mills asked Ina Ray to front an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears. June joined the band as a vocalist in 1937, singing under the name of Elaine Merritt and performing both solo and as part of the Winsteads vocal trio. When Ina Ray disbanded the orchestra in late 1939, June adopted her sister’s stage name and joined the Quintones, a vocal quartet composed of five men and one woman. In early 1940, the group toured as part of Jan Savitt’s orchestra. She remained with the Quintones for more than a year, leaving around the first of 1941 when they were working in the musical Hi Ya, Gentleman, starring Max Baer and Ella Logan. Hutton took a solo part in the play, which failed to make it on to Broadway. She then spent four months as a soloist at the Hotel Astor before joining the Stardusters vocal quartet.

In late 1941, the Stardusters signed with Charlie Spivak’s band, where they were featured heavily in performances and on record. Hutton often sang lead and was at times billed under her own name. The Stardusters proved popular with audiences, and June’s star began to rise. When Spivak put the Stardusters on notice in September 1943, the group subsequently quit. Hutton soon left the act and decided to pursue a solo career. In November, she appeared on Bob Crosby’s radio program.

Pied Piper Years

In June 1944, Hutton replaced Jo Stafford as a member of the Pied Pipers. In doing so, she became a member of the Chesterfield family of radio personalities, which included Stafford, orchestra leader Paul Weston, and Johnny Mercer, singer and founder of Capitol Records. Aside from her work with the Pied Pipers, Capitol quickly began to push Hutton as a solo artist. She recorded a duet with Mercer in 1944 and that same year sang with Weston’s orchestra. Though the latter song was released under Weston’s name, it was designed to highlight Hutton. Even when recording with the Pipers, Hutton was sometimes the featured vocalist, with the credits given as “June Hutton and The Pied Pipers.” She soon began attracting attention, appearing on the cover of Down Beat magazine in November 1944.

By 1945, Capitol’s push for Hutton had ended, and the Pipers settled back down to being a quartet again. They continued recording for Capitol through 1948, producing their biggest hit and first million-seller, “Dream,” in early 1945. In 1946 and 1947, the Pipers recorded with Frank Sinatra on Columbia. In 1949, they signed with RCA Victor.

The Pipers made four film appearances during the Hutton years, including on the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s 1946 animated musical extravaganza Make Mine Music. They won Down Beat magazine’s annual poll for best vocal combo four years in a row, from the category’s inception in 1945 to 1948. In 1944, they became regulars on the Revere’s All-Star Review radio program on the Mutual network, starring Andy Russell and later Marion Hutton. They toured with Russell during the show’s summer hiatus in 1945 and recorded with him on Capitol in 1948. They also appeared on CBS for Campbell Soup in 1948.

Later Career

In late 1949, Hutton left the Pipers to go solo, inking with Decca. She made her first appearance in a New York night club as a solo artist in January 1951 at the Copacabana, and on the 20th of that month she quietly married conductor Alex Stordahl in Connecticut.[2] In 1952, she signed with Capitol Records again, where Stordahl backed her on many recordings over the next few years. She and Stordahl often received equal billing, with an all-male vocal group, the Boys Next Door, providing backing vocals. In 1954, she recorded several duets with Gordon McRae.

Hutton made several television appearances in the 1950s, becoming a regular on The Frank Sinatra Show in 1951 and 1952.[3] Her last television appearance was in 1961 on the Westinghouse Playhouse series. She released her final recordings in 1957 on the TOPS label. She went into semi-retirement soon after.

Stordahl passed away in 1963. The couple had two children. Hutton married twice more, first to Arthur Pope in 1965. She and Pope divorced the following year, and in early 1968 she married television actor Kenneth Tobey in Las Vegas. At the time of her marriage to Tobey, she gave her age as 41, eight years younger than her actual age.[4] Hutton and Tobey divorced in 1972. June Hutton passed away in 1973 at age 53.


  1. Williams was the surname of Marvel’s step-mother. Marvel’s real last name was McFall. She later adopted her daughters’ stage name, Hutton. ↩︎

  2. Stordahl and Hutton eloped. Their wedding caught almost everyone by surprise. They married on a Saturday, and Stordahl had to be back at work on Frank Sinatra’s television show on Monday morning. ↩︎

  3. Stordahl was Sinatra’s musical director. When Sinatra married Ava Gardner in November 1951, Stordahl and Hutton were the best man and matron of honor. ↩︎

  4. Hutton was another artist whose age fluctuated over the years. Her birth year is 1919, however in a June 1939 article she gave her age as 21, likely because that was the age of legal consent at the time, and it would allow her to sign contracts without a parent’s co-signature. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “June Hutton.” IMDb. Accessed 27 Dec. 2015.
  3. “Who's Who in Music: Presenting Ina Ray Hutton's Band.” Down Beat Jun. 1939: 13.
  4. “On the Records.” Billboard 14 Mar. 1942: 74.
  5. “Prom.” The Concordiensis [Schenectady, New York] 31 Mar. 1942: 5.
  6. “Profiling the Players: Charlie Spivak and His Orchestra.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1942: 31.
  7. “Stardusters Put on Notice by Charlie Spivak.” Billboard 18 Sep. 1943: 5.
  8. “Stardusters Quit Spivak.” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1943: 3.
  9. “On the Air.” The Circleville Daily Herald [Circleville, Ohio] 26 Nov. 1943: 7.
  10. Cohen, Harold V. “Drama Desk.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 26 Nov. 1943: n. pag.
  11. “Jo Stafford and Gracie Fields Set for Summer.” Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 6.
  12. “'Chesterfield Music Shop' Gets Wendall Niles & Pipers.” Billboard 10 Jun. 1944: 11.
  13. “June Joins Pied Pipers.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1944: 6.
  14. Cover. ” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1944: cover.
  15. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 25 Nov. 1944: 21.
  16. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 16 Dec. 1944: 21.
  17. “Best Hot Discs of 1944.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1945: 11.
  18. “Scott Ork, Pipers Set for Andy Russell Tour.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1945: 10.
  19. “Network and Local Program Reviews.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1948: 10.
  20. “Pipers Slate Filled With Pic, Air Dates.” Down Beat 10 Mar. 1948: 18.
  21. “Pipers Repeat Performance.” Down Beat 24 Mar. 1948: 20.
  22. “Hutton Inks Pact With Decca.” Billboard 10 Dec. 1949: 15.
  23. “June Hutton Singles.” Down Beat 13 Jan. 1950: 1.
  24. “Capsule Comments.” Down Beat 26 Jan. 1951: 5.
  25. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 23 Feb. 1951: 10.
  26. “Sinatra, Gardner On Secret Honeymoon.” Van Wert Times-Bulletin [Van Wert, Ohio] 8 Nov. 1951: 1.
  27. “June Hutton Joins 1st '53 'Big Show.'” Down Beat 26 Jan. 1951: 5.
  28. “Deaths.” The Kingston Daily Freeman [Kingston, New York] 31 Aug. 1963: 8.
  29. “June Hutton Married Here.” Las Vegas Sun 4 Feb. 1968: 3.
  30. “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1949,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N7QT-SFQ : Wed Nov 15 09:21:05 UTC 2023), Entry for June Marvel Cowen and Odie Daniel Cowen.
  31. “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJ3M-L41 : Sat Dec 23 01:08:48 UTC 2023), Entry for Bailey McFall and Minnie McFall, 1920.
  32. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XST9-JFR : Fri Oct 06 06:57:28 UTC 2023), Entry for Bailey McFall and Minnie McFall, 1930.
  33. “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7MW-4J8 : Tue Nov 28 16:33:15 UTC 2023), Entry for June Hutton, 1940.
  34. “United States 1950 Census,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6XGH-3TMM : Thu Oct 05 16:19:12 UTC 2023), Entry for June R Hutton and Marvel S Hutton, 6 April 1950.
  35. “California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QLLV-F8H2 : Sun Oct 15 12:59:05 UTC 2023), Entry for Odd Or Axel Stordahl and Olger Stordahl, 30 Aug 1963.
  36. “California Marriage Index, 1960-1985,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V6K5-L4J : 26 January 2024), June E Hutton, 1965.
  37. “California Divorce Index, 1966-1984, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPB9-731 : 27 November 2014), June Hutton and Arthur G Pope, Oct 1966; from “California Divorce Index, 1966-1984,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2007); citing Los Angeles City, California, Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento.
  38. “California Divorce Index, 1966-1984,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPTX-LQP : 15 May 2014), June S Hutton and Jesse K Tobey, Oct 1972; from “California Divorce Index, 1966-1984,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2007); citing Los Angeles City, California, Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento.
  39. “California Death Index, 1940-1997,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPHK-RQL : 26 November 2014), June S Tobey, 02 May 1973; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.