Vaughn De Leath was a female singer who gained popularity in the 1920s, earning the sobriquets "The Original Radio Girl" and "First Lady of Radio." Although popular in the 1920s, De Leath is little known today.
De Leath was an early exponent of a style of vocalizing known as crooning. One of her hit songs, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?," recorded in 1927, achieved immortality when it became a hit for Elvis Presley in 1960.
She was born as Leonore Vonderlieth in the town of Mount Pulaski, Illinois in 1894. Her parents were George and Catherine Vonderlieth. At age 12, Leonore relocated to Los Angeles with her mother and sister, where she finished high school and studied music. While at Mills College, she began writing songs, but dropped out to pursue a singing career. She adopted the stage name "Vaughn De Leath." Her vocals ranged from soprano to deep contralto. De Leath adapted to the emerging, less restrictive jazz vocal style of the late 1910s - early 1920s.
In January 1920 inventor and radio pioneer Lee DeForest brought her to his studio in New York City's World Tower, where De Leath sang "Swanee River" in a cramped room. Most radio listeners at the time were only equipped with crystal radio, which limited audio fidelity. This performance is sometimes cited as the first live singing broadcast. According to some historical accounts of this incident, having been advised that high notes sung in her natural soprano might shatter the fragile vacuum tubes of her carbon mic?s amplifier, De Leath switched to a deep contralto and in the process invented ?crooning?, which became the dominant pop vocal styling for the next three decades.