Ruth Etting 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. 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.”
Born in David City, Nebraska, she left home at age seventeen to attend art school in Chicago. Her job designing costumes at the Marigold Gardens nightclub led to employment singing and dancing in the chorus there.
She became a featured vocalist at the nightclub, and married gangster Martin “Moe the Gimp” Snyder on July 12, 1922. He managed her career, booking radio appearances, and eventually had her signed to an exclusive recording contract with Columbia Records. She made her Broadway debut in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. She went on to appear in a number of other hit shows in rapid succession, including Simple Simon and Whoopee!. In Hollywood, she made a long series of movie shorts between 1929 and 1936, and three feature movies in 1933 and 1934. In 1936, she appeared in London in Ray Henderson’s Transatlantic Rhythm.
Etting divorced Moe Snyder on November 30, 1937. She fell in love with her pianist, Myrl Alderman, but in 1938 he was shot and injured by her ex-husband. Snyder was convicted of attempted murder, but released on appeal after one year in jail. Etting married Alderman, who was almost a decade her junior, in December 1938. The scandal of the sensational trial in Los Angeles effectively ended her career, though she briefly had a radio show in 1947. Alderman died on November 16, 1966.