Ruth Etting (November 23, 1897 – September 24, 1978) was an American singing star and actress of the 1920s and 1930s, who had over 60 hit recordings and worked in stage, radio, and film.
She is known as “America’s sweetheart of song”.
Her signature tunes were “Shine On, Harvest Moon”, “Ten Cents a Dance” and “Love Me or Leave Me”.
Her other popular recordings included “Button Up Your Overcoat”, “Mean to Me”, “Exactly Like You” and “Shaking the Blues Away”.
Etting intended to retire from performing in 1935, but this did not happen until after her divorce from Snyder in 1937.
Harry Myrl Alderman, Etting’s pianist, was separated from his wife when he and Etting began a relationship.
Moe Snyder did not like seeing his former wife in the company of other men and began making telephone threats to Etting in January 1938.
By October, Snyder traveled to Los Angeles and detained Alderman after he left a local radio station; he forced the pianist to take him to the home of his ex-wife at gunpoint.
Saying he intended to kill Etting, Alderman, and his own daughter, Edith, who worked for Etting, Snyder shot Alderman.
Three days after Alderman was shot, his wife filed suit against Etting for alienation of affections.
Etting was interested in drawing at an early age and hoped to be able to draw illustrations for a newspaper.
She drew and sketched anywhere she was able.
Her grandparents were asked to buy the textbooks she had used at the end of a school term because Etting had filled them with her drawings.
She left David City at the age of sixteen to attend art school in Chicago.
Etting got a job designing costumes at the Marigold Gardens nightclub, which led to employment singing and dancing in the chorus there.
She gave up art school soon after going to work at Marigold Gardens.
Before turning exclusively to performing, Etting also worked as a designer for the owner of a costume shop in Chicago’s Loop; she was successful enough to earn a partnership in the shop through her work.
While she enjoyed singing at school and in church, Etting never took voice lessons.
She said that she had patterned her song styling after Marion Harris, but created her own unique style by alternating tempos and by varying some notes and phrases.
After an unissued test made by Victor on April 4, 1924, Etting was signed to Columbia Records in February 1926.
She remained at Columbia through June 1931, when she split her recording between ARC (Banner, Perfect, Romeo, Oriole, etc.) and Columbia through March 1933.
Etting then signed with Brunswick and remained there until May 1934, when she re-signed with Columbia throughout July 1935.
After a solitary Brunswick session in March 1936, she signed with the British label Rex and recorded two sessions in August and September, 1936.
In 1955 her story was made into a movie, ultimately nominated for six Academy Awards and winning the Award for Best Story.
Love Me or Leave Me starred Doris Day and James Cagney as the Gimp.
Ruth Etting died on September 24 1978, in Colorado Springs.