Big Band Leader, Entertainer announcer. Kay Kyser was very successful during his years as a number one band leader in the country and equally productive during his long period of retirement at age 41. He had eleven number-one hit recordings..."Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" "Three Little Fishes" "Jingle Jangle Jingle" "Old Buttermilk Sky" and "The Woody Woodpecker Song."
In the late 30's and early 40's, Kyser's band appeared in seven motion pictures..."Stage Door Canteen" "Thousands Cheer" and Carolina Blues" where the story was about the band. However, his greatest success was in radio, the media which propelled him and his Orchestra to fame with the radio show and finally television, "Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge."
Kyser in reality had a two phase life career both different in demeanor, one in show business and another in diverse public service and religion. He was born James Kern Kyser in Rocky Mount, North Carolina to parents Paul and Emily Kyser both pharmacists. He exhibited little interest in music as a youngster which would only surface during his college days at North Carolina State. His attendance there was almost preordained by his families history at the school. Many members including his parents not only were former students but would return to teach at UNC or serve in some official capacity.
James was very active in high school again showing no signs of a show business career but many indications of leadership. He was president of both his junior and senior class, edited the school yearbook and even formed a football team comprised of himself and other members rejected by the school coach from the varsity team deeming them unfit but undeterred from participation led cheers for the team.
Finally a student at North Carolina State, Chapel Hill, he was an excellent student but especially shined in the extracurricular field...from active membership in fraternities, acting in school plays, establishing a cheering section at sports events and the ultimate in his Junior year, with no musical skills formed a band which was destined to gain national notoriety and fame.
A first rehearsal in Gerrard Hall with six members produced a group with no dexterity and seemed barely qualified to be called a band. James would become Kay Kyser (middle initial became his first name.) Moreover, the group would prevail, improve and grow in popularity while playing not only at UNC but at many major schools around the area. After graduation the band remained intact and began touring the country as the "Kay Kyser Orchestra" with little initial success. However, the group was early, the Big Band era had not yet arrived.