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Wed, 08.13.1913

Anna Mae Winburn, Singer, and Bandleader born

Anna Mae Winburn

*On this date, in 1913, Anna Mae Winburn was born.  She was a Black singer, guitarist, and bandleader.   

Born Anna Mae Darden in Port Royal, Tennessee, she was the daughter of Andrew Jackson Darden and Lula Carnell, a musical family. She was the fourth oldest of 9 siblings, five brothers, and three sisters:  Her family moved to Kokomo, Indiana when she was young.  Winburn was an influential American vocalist and jazz bandleader who flourished in the mid-1930s.

She is best known for having directed the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female big band, perhaps one of the few racially integrated dance bands of the 1940s swing era.  Her first known publicized performance was singing with the studio band of Radio WOWO, Fort Wayne. She worked at various clubs in Indiana, including the Chateau Lido in Indianapolis (where she appeared under the pseudonym Anita Door).  From there, she moved to North Omaha, Nebraska, where she sang and played guitar for a variety of territory bands that Red Perkins led.  She also led the Cotton Club Boys, including guitarist Charlie Christian.  

When many musicians were lost to the World War II draft, Winburn joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.  Soon she went to Oklahoma City and led bands for a short while. There, she led Eddie Durham's "All-Girl Orchestra," which eventually invited her to join the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Winburn became the leader of the band in 1941.  She was reportedly hired for her attractive figure and to do little composing or singing. She was the leader of the band until it folded in late 1949.  

Winburn formed other versions of the International Sweethearts for the next ten years, often billing her name before the band. However, those bands never regained the notoriety of the early years.  Anna Mae Winburn and Her Sweethearts performed at the eighth Cavalcade of Jazz concert at Wrigley Field on June 1, 1952.   Anna Mae Winburn died on September 30, 1999.  

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