Sunday, 21 July 2013
Kay Starr born 21 July 1922
Kay Starr (born July 21, 1922) is an American jazz and popular singer.
She was born Katherine Laverne Starks on a reservation in Dougherty, Oklahoma. Her father, Harry, was a full-blooded Iroquois Indian; her mother, Annie, was of mixed Irish and American Indian heritage. When her father got a job installing water sprinkler systems, the family moved to Dallas, Texas. While her father worked for the Automatic Sprinkler Company, her mother raised chickens, and Kay used to sing to the chickens in the coop. As a result of the fact that her aunt, Nora, was impressed by her singing, she began to sing at the age of seven on a Dallas radio station, WRR, first in a talent competition where she finished third one week and won every week thereafter, then with her own weekly fifteen minute show. She sang pop and "hillbilly" songs with a piano accompaniment. By the age of ten, she was making $3 a night, a lot of money in the Depression days.
As a result of her father's changing jobs, her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and she continued performing on the radio, singing "Western swing music," still mostly a mix of country and pop. It was while she was on the Memphis radio station WMPS that, as a result of misspellings in her fan mail, she and her parents decided to give her the name "Kay Starr".
Aged 15, she was chosen to sing with the Joe Venuti orchestra. Venuti had a contract to play in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis which called for his band to feature a girl singer, which he did not have. Venuti's road manager heard her on the radio and suggested her to Venuti. Because she was still in junior high school, her parents insisted that Venuti take her home no later than midnight.
Although she had brief stints in 1939 with Bob Crosby and Glenn Miller (who hired her in July of that year when his regular singer, Marion Hutton, was sick), she spent most of her next few years with Venuti, until he dissolved his band in 1942. It was, however, with Miller that she cut her first record: "Baby Me"/"Love with a Capital You." It was not a great success, in part because the band played in a key more appropriate for Marion Hutton, which was less suited for Kay's vocal range.
After finishing high school, she moved to Los Angeles and signed with Wingy Manone's band; then from 1943 to 1945 she sang with Charlie Barnet's band. She then retired for a year because she developed pneumonia and later developed nodes on her vocal cords, and lost her voice as a result of fatigue and overwork.
In 1946 she became a soloist, and in 1947 signed a solo contract with Capitol Records. Capitol had a number of other female singers signed up (such as Peggy Lee, Ella Mae Morse, Jo Stafford, and Margaret Whiting), so it was hard to find her a niche. In 1948 when the American Federation of Musicians was threatening a strike, Capitol wanted to have all its singers record a lot of songs for future release. Since she was junior to all these other artists, every song she wanted to sing got offered to all the others, leaving her a list of old songs from earlier in the century, which nobody else wanted to record.
Around 1950 Starr made a trip back home to Dougherty and heard a fiddle recording of Pee Wee King's song, Bonaparte's Retreat. She liked it so much that she wanted to record it, and contacted Roy Acuff's publishing house in Nashville, Tennessee, and spoke to Acuff directly. He was happy to let her record it, but it took a while for her to make clear that she was a singer, not a fiddler, and therefore needed to have some lyrics written. Eventually Acuff came up with a new lyric, and Bonaparte's Retreat became her biggest hit up to that point, with close to a million sales.
In 1955, she signed with RCA Victor Records. However, at this time, traditional pop music was being superseded by rock and roll, and Kay had only one hit, which is sometimes considered her attempt to sing rock and roll and sometimes as a song making fun of it, "The Rock and Roll Waltz." She stayed at RCA Victor until 1959, then returned to Capitol.
Most of her songs have jazz influences, and, like Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray, are sung in a style that sound decidedly close to the rock and roll songs that follow. These include her smash hits Wheel of Fortune (her biggest hit, number one for 10 weeks), Side by Side, The Man Upstairs, and Rock and Roll Waltz. One of her biggest hits was her cover version of The Man with the Bag, a Christmas song, which can be heard non-stop every holiday season in stores, restaurants, and on the radio. Her career declined in the late 1950s but she continued to work. After rock-and-roll swept older performers from the charts, Starr subsequently appeared in such television series as NBC's Club Oasis, mostly associated with the bandleader Spike Jones.
After departing from Capitol Records for a second time in 1966, Starr continued touring concert venues in the US and the UK. She also recorded several jazz and country albums on small independent labels, including a 1968 album with Count Basie, and Back To The Roots (1975). In the late 1980s she was featured in the revue 3 Girls with Helen O'Connell and Margaret Whiting, and in 1993 she toured the United Kingdom as part of Pat Boone’s April Love Tour. Most recently her first "live" album, Live At Freddy's, was released in 1997. Kay Starr performs Blue and Sentimental with Tony Bennett on his 2001 album Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues.
Kay resides in Bel Air, California; married six times she has a daughter and a grandchild. As of 2013, she is now 91 years old and still performing.(info from Wikipedia)
Here's a great clip of Kay Starr singing two songs on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" from 1952. "It's a Good Day" & "Wheel of Fortune"