was born Vivian Carter in Tunica, Mississippi, to Ludalia and Minnie Carter. Her parents’ occupations are not known. She had one brother, Calvin.
Bracken’s family moved to Gary, Indiana, in the late 1920s. In 1939 she graduated from the city’s Roosevelt High School, then worked a number of odd jobs, including a stint with the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II. It was in the corps that she met her future husband James Bracken in 1944. She got her big break in radio in 1948; that year she won a talent search contest sponsored by popular WGES DJ