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Kay Starr

Katherine Laverne Starks, known as Kay Starr, was an American pop and jazz singer who enjoyed considerable success in the 1940s and 1950s. She is best remembered for introducing two songs that became #1 hits in the 1950s, "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Rock And Roll Waltz".

Starr was successful in every field of music she tried: jazz, pop and country. But her roots were in jazz; and Billie Holiday, considered by many the greatest jazz singer of all time, called Starr "the only white woman who could sing the blues."

Kay Starr 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.[2] 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 serenaded 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 radio station, 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 during the Great Depression.

When Starr'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 Venuti orchestra. Venuti had a contract to play in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis which called for his band to feature a girl singer, a performer he did not have at the time. Venuti's road manager heard Starr on the radio and recommended her to his boss although she was still in junior high school and her parents insisted on a midnight curfew.

Though 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), Starr spent most of the next few years with Venuti until he dissolved his band in 1942. It was, however, with Miller that she cut her first two recordings: "Baby Me" and "Love with a Capital You". They were not a great success, in part because the band played in a key that, while appropriate for Marion Hutton, did not suit Kay's vocal range.

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September 28, 2017

Count Basie and Kay Starr

November 07, 2016

Bob Cranshaw + Kay Starr

July 19, 2012

Kay Starr: 'I Cry by Night'

Alex Pangman
voice / vocals

Photos

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

The Fabulous Kay Starr

Bourbon Records
2004

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Jazz Singer / The...

Bourbon Records
2002

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Rockin' With Kay / I...

Bourbon Records
2002

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The One - The Only /...

Bourbon Records
2002

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Capitol Collectors...

Bourbon Records
1991

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Greatest Hits

Bourbon Records
1991

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Videos

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