The Original Radio Girl

Easton HSE Vaughn De Leath 1920's
Vaughn De Leath “The Original Radio Girl” in the mid-1920’s

Leonore Vonderlieth went by the stage name Vaughn De Leath. She was one of the most popular recording artists of the early 20th century. In 1924, she married artist Livingston Geer, and sometime around 1926, they purchased 910 Sport Hill Road as their summer residence. Vaughn De Leath was known as the “Original Radio Girl.” She commuted once a week to perform and host the “Voice of Firestone” on NBC radio in NYC. Her 1927 recording “Are You Lonesome Tonight” would be sung 33 years later by Elvis Presley. Vaughn De Leath  sang in a low, reedy voice and sometimes favored  sentimental material. De Leath claimed to have created the vocal style of crooning, as it registered better on early radio sets than did the high soprano voice in which she was trained. In more than one interview she claimed that some of the notes she hit while singing soprano “blew radio tubes in listeners’ sets” – perhaps a bit of a stretch, but amusing none-the-less.

De Leath was an avid cook and loved living on her Easton “farm” – all 7 acres of it. The farm was named “The Hitching Post”, and she and Livingston Geer enjoyed the country life. She was quoted in 1937, “I like small-town life. I like being neighborly – swapping jelly and home-made bread across the back fence.” An interesting observation given that her nearest neighbor via her backyard would have been about a half-mile through the woods over on North Park Avenue. De Leath had a beloved collie named Nell, who more than once wandered off the farm, prompting De Leath to offer a reward for her return. That seemed to be effective, as the dog was always found and returned to her mistress.

Livingston Geer artist's 1926 Photoplay cover
1926 Livingston Geer artwork

Livingston Geer was a very successful artist and illustrator. Well known for his cover work for Photoplay and other various publications, he worked steadily during his time in Easton. His portrait and landscape work occasionally come up at auction and can usually be had for a very reasonable price. The painting below, in it’s original frame, sold for only $30 at a rural Maine auction in 2006. Geer and De Leath were divorced in late 1934, with De Leath retaining the ownership of the Easton property.

Girl with Bouquet by Livingston Geer 1929
Livingston Geer’s “Girl with a Bouquet”

De Leath remarried in 1937. This time to musician Irwin Rosenbloom. That union lasted 4 years, with De Leath divorcing him claiming “unusual cruelty” on his part. Again, she retained ownership of the Easton home. Also, in 1937, De Leath sued singer Kate Smith and won an injunction prohibiting Smith from using the title “First Lady in Radio,”  a term De Leath had often used to describe herself after she was no longer calling herself “the Original Radio Girl.” Coincidently, Smith’s sister Helena Steene also lived in Easton for a  while.
Vaughn De Leath died in 1943 at the age of 49. Her early demise has been blamed at least in part on her heavy consumption of alcohol. It can be assumed that Vaughn De Leath had become friendly with fellow Easton resident and author Edna Ferber at some point when the two women resided in town (Ferber lived on Maple Road about two miles from De Leath’s residence), as in Ferber’s 1945 novel “The Great Son,” she named one of her main characters Vaughan Melendy who fathers a child by dancer Pansy DeLeath – perhaps just a coincidence, by seemingly unlikely.

Vaughn De Leath 1930's
Vaughn De Leath in the 1930’s when she lived in Easton


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