Ruth Bowen, the first Black female booking agent, died on Tuesday.
Ruth had battled a brain tumor before passing away in New York. She was a prolific agent in the musical theatre world, also becoming the first Black woman to open a theatrical booking agency.
Her career spanned over half a century and included some of world’s best entertainers, people like Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., Dionne Warwick,Kool and the Gang, Teddy Pendergrass and The Isley Brothers.
Ruth’s tenure in the biz began when she married Ink Spots group member William "Billy" Bowen in 1944. With him she would travel and manage Billy’s business, eventually meeting the Queen of Blues herself, Miss Dinah. Ruth became Dinah’s publicist soon after their meeting and wound up founding Queen Booking. Operating out of the Howard Theatre in Washington, the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and Regal Theatre in Chicago, Queens Booking slowly grew and later became Queen Booking Corporation (QBC).
Even after the death of the biggest client, Dinah, QBC expanded and added to its roster the legendary names above. In the mid-70s, QBC became Renaissance Talents before ultimately settling on The Bowen Agency Ltd.
Personally, Ruth endured the death of her husband Billy, and formed a civic club, Rinkydinks, to help educate minorities.
She is survived by her second husband, Clarence "Billy" Bryant, a brother, sister-in-law, as well as nieces and nephews. Her services are being held in New York.
– Whitney Teal