Kay Starr, Pop Singer Who Mixed Jazz, Country and Blues

On The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952)–Watch on YouTube

For decades Kay Starr was a jukebox favorite, racking up millions of record sales. When RCA-Victor lured her away from Capitol in 1955, they guaranteed her $250,000 a year, a stunning sum at the time. Her popularity was based on her ability to ebb and flow with musical tastes and trends, from swing to country to blues and even to the edge of rock and roll.

She started with big bands, making her first recording while a teenager with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. She replaced Lena Horne in Charlie Barnet’s swing orchestra and played with the Capitol International Jazzmen (including Coleman Hawkins and Nat King Cole). In the late 1940s, she went and scored big hits with songs like “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

Starr (July 21, 1922-November 3, 2016) was a favorite of Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley, according to her obituary in The Washington Post. She performed at the inauguration of Harry Tuman.

 

“Wheel of Fortune” on Spotify

Kitty Kallen, Pop Singer Who Topped Charts in 1950s

“Kiss Me Sweet,” 1949

Kitty Kallen (May 25, 1921-January 7, 2016) was an American pop singer who began her career with swing and big bands, performing with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey among others.

On Colgate Comedy Hour (Begins at 9:24)

She made the transition to Post-War Pop, appearing on many early TV shows, including The Tonight Show, Colgate Comedy Hour, Perry Como and Fred Allen’s Judge for Yourself.

“Little Things Mean A Lot” on Perry Como, 1955

Her mid-50s hit, “Little Things Mean A Lot,” was #1 in the US for nine consecutive weeks. She was named “most popular female singer” in 1954 and was honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.