- Kay Starr
Infobox musical artist
Name = Kay Starr
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Katherine Laverne Starks
Born = birth date and age|1922|7|21,
Dougherty, Oklahoma, United States
Genre = Traditional Pop
Years_active = 1939-1950s
Label = Capitol, RCA Victor
URL = [http://www.kaystarr.net KayStarr.net]
Life and career
She was born Katherine Laverne Starks on a reservation in
Dougherty, Oklahoma. Her father, Harry, was a full-blooded IroquoisIndian; her mother, Annie, was of mixed Irish and American Indian heritage. When her father got a job installing water sprinkler systems for the Automatical Sprinkler Company, the family moved to Dallas, Texas. There, her mother raised chickens, whom Kay used to serenade in the coop. Kay's aunt Nora was impressed by her 7-year-old niece's singing and arranged for her to sing on a Dallas radiostation, WRR. First she took a talent competition by storm, finishing 3rd one week and placing first every week thereafter. Eventually she had her own 15-minute show. She sang pop and "hillbilly" songs with a piano accompaniment. By age 10 she was making $3 a night, which was quite a salary in the Depression days.
When Kay's father changed jobs, the family moved to
Memphis, Tennessee, where she continued performing on the radio. She sang "Western swing music," still mostly a mix of country and pop. During this time at Memphis radio station WMPS,misspellings in her fan mail inspired her and her parents to change her name to "Kay Starr."
At 15, she was chosen to sing with the
Joe Venutiorchestra. 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 Kay Starr on the radio and suggested her to Venuti. She was still in junior high school and her parents insisted on a midnight curfew.
Although she had brief stints in 1939 with
Bob Crosbyand 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 that, unfortunately, did not suit 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 pneumoniaand 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 Musicianswas 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 Laineand 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 versionof "The Man with the Bag", a Christmassong, 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.
In 2006 a remix by
Stuhrof Starr's vocal of the classic " I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" was used in a commercial for Telus.
As of 2007 she resides in
Bel Air, California; married six times, she has a daughter and a grandchild.
*A B-side of "Kay's Lament"
*B B-side of "The Man Upstairs"
Am I A Toy Or A Treasure" (1954)
*"Bonaparte's Retreat" (1950)
Changing Partners" (1953)
Come On-A My House" (1951)
Comes A-Long A-Love" (1952)
*"Fool, Fool, Fool" (with The Lancers — B-side of "Kay's Lament") (1952)
*"Fortune In Dreams" (1954)
*"Good And Lonesome" (1955)
Half A Photograph" (1953)
*"The Headless Horseman"
If You Love Me (Really Love Me)" (B-side of "The Man Upstairs") (1954)
*"I'll Never Be Free" (with
Tennessee Ernie Ford) (1950)
*"I Waited A Little Too Long" (1952)
*"Kay's Lament" (with The Lancers) (1952)
Little Things Mean a Lot" (A bigger hit version was done by Kitty Kallen.)
My Heart Reminds Me" (1957)
*"Oceans Of Tears" (1951)
*"Oh, Babe!" (1950)
*"Side By Side" (1953)
*"So Tired" (1948)
*"The Man Upstairs" (1954)
The Rock And Roll Waltz" (Gold Record) (1956)
*"Wheel Of Fortune" (Gold Record) (1952)
*"When My Dreamboat Comes Home" (1953)
*"You Were Only Foolin' (While I Was Falling In Love)" (1948)
*"Baby Me" - Kay Starr vocals On This
Glenn Miller& His Orchestra recording (1939)
* [http://members.tripod.com/%7EKay_Starr/main.html The Kay Starr Homepage]
* [http://www.kaystarr.net KayStarr.net]
* [http://www.ddg.com/LIS/InfoDesignF96/Ismael/jazz/1950/Starr.html Lush Lives (Ladies of Jazz) site]
* [http://www.mmguide.musicmatch.com/artist/artist.cgi?ARTISTID=365956 MusicMatch Guide site]
* [http://www.zm101.com/los50/kaystarr/biostarr.html Biography of Kay Starr] (in Spanish)
* [http://www.chartwatch.co.uk/TopTen/acts/ACT02424.htm British charts]
* [http://www.theiceberg.com/artist/865/kay_starr.html The Iceberg site]
* [http://www.mrlucky.com/songbirds/html/may99/a_kstarr.html Songbird of the Month site]
* [http://members.tripod.com/~Kay_Starr/Discography.html Kay Starr Discography]
* [http://www.mp3.com/Kay-Starr/artists/2630/biography.html A biography]
* [http://www.kuow.org/defaultProgram.asp?ID=10254 Kay Starr interview on KUOW 94.9 (NPR) Seattle, 2006] KUOW Public Radio site
*imdb name|id=0823545|name=Kay Starr
* [http://www.members.tripod.com/~Kay_Starr/biography.html Biography]
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