Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kay Kyser

One of my favorite musical acts of the swing era was Kay Kyser. Kay spoke with a soft, melodic Southern accent as he led his band through hot songs, sweet songs and novelty songs. He became a household word when he hit it big on radio with his KOLLEGE OF MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE quiz show. 

Merwyn Bogue--aka Ish Kabibble--he of the pre-Beatle haircut, handled most of the comedy that Kay himself didn't take.

Beautiful and popular, Ginny Simms was Kay's best known female vocalist although he had several (his own future wife included) over the years.

Harry Babbit and Sully Mason rounded out Kay's vocalists.

 Kay and his band and singers starred in a brief series of amiable musical comedies starting in the late thirties.

I discovered Kay in 1980. I was with a local comedy troupe and we had pre-recorded comedy inserts to appear on the weekly all-night movie show on Saturday night. One of that night's films turned out to be THAT'S RIGHT, YOU'RE WRONG, named after one of Kay's several catch-phrases. As I stayed up all night to tape my first TV appearance, I watched the movie and enjoyed it much!

Probably their best known vehicle was PLAYMATES, unfortunately remembered as the horribly bad swan song of the great actor John Barrymore, playing himself as a drunken, washed up actor. 

 YOU'LL FIND OUT is also remembered in some circles because of its featuring of Karloff, Lugosi and Peter Lorre in supporting roles.

Kay Kyser very suddenly retired from performing in 1950 and devoted the rest of his life to Christian Science. To the best of my knowledge, he only once more appeared in public for any other reason and that was a rare appearance on the DINAH SHORE program in the early eighties, looking much the same and discussing his show biz career with fondness.

Seen below is one of a couple of books that have come out on Kay Kyser in recent years. I can't recommend it as I can't afford it (or the other one) but they both sound great.


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