Saturday, 17 August 2013
Ketty Lester born 17 August 1934
Ketty Lester (born Revoyda Frierson, 16 August 1934**, Hope, Arkansas) is an American singer and television actress, who is probably best known for her 1962 hit single, "Love Letters", which reached the Top 5 of the charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom. **(Some sources say 1938)
She was one of 15 children born into a farmer's family. After winning a scholarship in 1955, she moved to California and attended San Francisco City College, majoring in nursing. Lester sang in church and the school choir, and performed in summer stock theater. She also appeared as a contestant on the classic '50s game show You Bet Your Life. She began her singing career after studying music at San Francisco State College and performed in the city's Purple Onion club in the early 1950s.
Later in the early 60’s she would join Cab Calloway's orchestra on a European tour. After a brief stint in an off-Broadway production entitled Cabin in the Sky, she was signed to Era Records which released "Love Letters" in 1962. The song would become a big seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and reach Number #2 on the Billboard R&B chart resulting in appearances on teen-oriented TV shows such as Hullabaloo as well as a full-length album of the same name. Also in 1962, Lester would collaborate with American R&B singer Betty Everett, and the duo released the album, Betty Everett & Ketty Lester. (Love letters sold over 1 Million copies, also in 1991 the song was ranked 176th in the RIAA – compiled list of Songs of the Century).
Ketty’s followup, a cover of the Gershwin brothers’ “But Not For Me” didn’t do as well, only reaching #41 on the Pop chart. Subsequent singles didn’t even fare that well, and by 1964 Ketty
had signed with big-budget RCA Victor in an apparent effort to expand her career beyond R&B into the glitzier arena of chanteuse-singing-standards-with-full-orchestra. In an unusual move (and perhaps in response to the civil rights movement at the time), the "powers that were" at RCA viewed Lester’s soulful roots as a positive feature that set her apart from label-mates Dinah Shore, Ann-Margret, and even Lena Horne. In fact, Lester’s first RCA album stressed her R&B roots with its title, The Soul of Me. She did win a Theatre World award however for her performance in the off-Broadway play Cabin In the Sky during that time period.
After Where Is Love, Lester's second album, she was released from RCA; apparently, she wasn’t the chart-topper they’d hoped for. Two years later, she recorded the album When a Woman Loves a Man for the decidedly downscale Tower label. With a recording career that clearly was going nowhere; she turned to what she loved equally, if not more: acting. Originally offered the lead role in Julia starring Diahann Carroll, Lester appeared in the films Just for Fun, Up Tight, Uptown Saturday Night, The Terminal Man, Street Knight, House Party 3 and Blacula, and the TV movies Louis Armstrong: Chicago Style and Percy and Thunder.
She also guest starred on TV series like Sanford and Son, Laugh In, Quantum Leap, Hill Street Blues, Love American Style, The FBI, Harry 0 (the 1975 episode with Maureen McCormick), That Girl, Marcus Welby and Lou Grant She played the roles of 'Helen Grant' in the soap opera, Days of Our Lives from 1975 to 1977, and 'Hester-Sue Terhune' on the NBC television series Little House on the Prairie from 1978 to 1983. In 1984 she recorded a gospel album.
Her last acting role was as Viveca A. Fox's grandmother on the 1998 sitcom Getting Personal.
(info edited from Wikipedia, Songbirds, AMG)