Ruth Carrell (1909-1992)
Songwriter and Performer
Ruth Carrell made only one appearance on camera, and sang an off-camera duet with her husband Jimmie Dodd, on the first season of the Mickey Mouse Club. She co-wrote several songs with Jimmie, and was responsible for the idea behind at least one production number. Her only connection to show business was through Jimmie, and she took no part in it after his death.
Ruth Carrell was born Ruth Geneva Wolfenden, on December 10, 1909, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her parents were William Wolfenden and Carrie Fisher, who apparently separated when Ruth was a child. Her mother worked as a baker. The family, including Ruth's younger brother William, lived with Carrie's sister and brother-in-law.
After graduating from high school Ruth attended college for a year, but the Great Depression precluded further formal education. By age twenty-one Ruth was on her own, living in a rooming house, and paying $6.50 per week for room and board. She supported herself by working as an advertising solicitor for a local newspaper. She moved across the Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky by 1935, and a few years later headed for California.
In early 1940 Ruth sublet a room in a Hollywood house rented by Luella Brauer, whose son Jimmie Dodd also lived there. Ruth worked as an advertising manager for a newspaper, while Jimmie was now unemployed, the Louis Prima Orchestra's tour of California having finished. Jimmie was from the same area of Cincinnati as Ruth, and it's possible they were already acquainted, or at least knew of each other. They were married in 1940, just after Jimmie broke into pictures.
From this point on Ruth's life is submerged in Jimmie's, with the exception of their USO and Bond tours during the war. They started with a tour of North Africa during 1943-44. (These tours are the only record of Ruth performing in show business). From late October through early December of 1944, they toured the China-Burma-India theater of war with a six-member USO group. The stars were Pat O'Brien and Jinx Falkenburg; also on the tour were Harry Brown and Betty Yeaton. The group spent fifty days in the theater, performing over 100 shows and personal appearances in Karachi, New Delhi, Luichow, and 10 days at forward air bases in China.
Ruth has been described in several sources as a dancer; why is uncertain, for her only performances appear to have been as a singer. The confusion may be a legacy of photos from the USO tours, with exotic dancer Betty Yeaton being mistaken for Ruth. For the USO tours Ruth used the surname "Carrell" as a stage name, probably at the request of the tour producers, to disguise her marriage to Jimmie and enhance her attraction for the GI audience as a "single" lady (see photo on sidebar). Besides the overseas tours, Ruth also performed with Jimmie for War Bond promotional drives around the US.
For one of the earliest show's in the first season, Ruth sang an off-camera duet with Jimmie, called Pussycat Polka. Even before the Mickey Mouse Club, Ruth had co-written a song with Jimmie, called Amarillo. Now Ruth came up with an idea for a production number called Cooking With Minnie Mouse, which choreographer Burch Mann turned into a ballet-jazz piece. Ruth and Jimmie co-wrote the song, and sang it on-camera. Ruth co-wrote several other songs with Jimmie, including their signature tune, Do What The Good Book Says, which the Mouseketeers used to end their live performances. Ruth also had solo writing credit on two songs, and collaborated with Bob Amsberry on Rose Festival Time and Darlene. Ruth also had another, unofficial role, as a sort of Den Mother and hostess for Mouseketeer parties at the Dodd house.
After the show was cancelled Ruth and Jimmie moved to Hawaii, where they had a condominium. Jimmie frequently traveled, making personal appearances for the Disney studio on an ad hoc basis, and they both went with some of the Mouseketeers to Australia in May 1959. While in Sydney, Ruth recorded the song Rosy Glow as the B side to Tommy Cole's rendition of Date Night (DO 4079), both songs by Ruth and Jimmie Dodd. Ruth again accompanied Jimmie and the Mouseketeers to Australia in May 1960.
Ruth and Jimmie were members of Roy Rogers' Hollywood Christian Group, along with Cheryl Holdridge and talent winner Pamela Beaird. They all contributed to an LP of Christian music released by the group. The Dodds later recorded and released an LP album of their own songs with spiritual themes, and often made singing guest appearances on religious radio and television programs.
When the Mickey Mouse Club's first run in syndication ended in 1964, Jimmie got a job hosting a local kid's television show in Hawaii, to be called Jimmie Dodd's Aloha Time. As the show's debut neared, and Jimmie fell ill, Ruth stepped in to help finish the filming. The producers begged her to keep Jimmie's illness and death a secret, until after the show went on the air in Hawaii. After his death on November 10, 1964, Ruth moved back to Los Angeles. She married an accountant named Harold Braun in 1968, and aside from local church gatherings, no longer performed or took part in show business. In 1975, though, she took part in the Disneyland 20th Anniversary celebrations. She died April 19, 1992 in Northridge, CA.