The Missouri Rockets, predecessors to New York's Rockettes, were founded in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert in 1925. You can easily look up the history of the Rockets and Rockettes on the web, so I won't go to great lengths writing second-hand accounts of what's already readily available. This page is dedicated to the Rockets and to the memory of my Mother-in-Law, who saved a bunch of pictures from her singing and dancing days.

Cathy's mom, Nadja Janeff, was born in 1910 to poor Macedonian immigrant parents. Her father sold bread from a wagon in the streets of St. Louis' Soulard District, not far from the waterfront. She was the eldest of five children. Both parents, George and Sveta, were in poor health. In 1926, she heard about auditions being held at the old Missouri Theatre for dancers and decided to show up and tryout. The story was, she went to see Mr. Markert's assistant, Bob Alton, and he asked her to pull up her skirt so he could see her legs. So, she pulled up her skirt to just below her knees. He said, "higher." She raised it above the knees. Then, Alton reached over, pulled up her skirt to high on the thighs, looked for an instant, and said, "you're hired." Nadja told him she didn't know how to dance. Alton said, "I don't care; you'll be dancing in three days." She WAS dancing in three days, AND making $30 a week, lots of money in the 1920s; way more than George made selling bread.

When Roxy Rothafel took the Rockets to New York in Christmas of 1932, Nadja stayed in St. Louis. Her mother, Sveta, had just died that spring and her father's health continued to deteriorate. Nadja had her own orchestra and also was a professional singer, often touring the upper US with Al Haley and his orchestra. Her hard work and talent sustained the family well throughout the depression. Nadja married St. Louis radio & TV personality Ed Wilson in 1938. Nadja's career as a performer was essentially over at that point as she concentrated on raising a family of her own. Plus, Ed was a hard act to follow, not amenable to being upstaged.

So, lots of the pictures on this page are of the Rockets. Some are of Nadja the singer and bandleader and people she worked with during that phase of her career. You can probably figure out which are which. Apparently, according to the Missouri Historical Society, these may be the only pictures of the Rockets that exist, so we wanted to share them. If you have any information of any of these people you'd like to add, send it on over. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger photo. If you want a full-sized scan, e-mail me.

Alice Finn


Thelma Maekle

Nadja Janeff




Ginger Rogers


Billie Younger

Eleanor Lockett


Corrine Frederick

Belle Baker

Grace Johnston

Nadja Janeff

Trudi Bogard

Dudley Herter

Paul Markman

Frank Masters

Al Haley

Al Haley

Trudi's Band

Uncle Joe Gustat

Guys on the Beach

Other Stuff

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Web page design and all images contained herein, except where indicated otherwise, are ©2007 Dean R. Charles and are the exclusive property of the author/photographer. Any other use is prohibited without express written permission of the owner. Violators will be flogged.