Jan 28, 2017

A Kay Starr Box Set Just For You!

Rejoice! Though Kay Starr left us in 2016, her spirited, down-home vocal jazz will live on forever. I've always wanted a Kay Starr Box Set, haven't you? As far as I know, none exists, but why should that stop us? After much thought (about two seconds), I decided to make my very own.

And it's a good thing, too, because these days, if you search for Kay on Amazon or Spotify or wherever, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by cheap compilations, or semi-curated collections whose poor sound quality makes them practically worthless. If you're just starting to collect Kay, it can be confusing, and it's likely one of the reasons that she hasn't reignited as much as she should have in modern times. But we'll change that, won't we?

I set myself some ground rules. First, I selected the best quality I could find (most of them are lossless, for you audiophiles-types out there, but they play perfectly with iTunes on Mac or Windows). From there, I chose only Kay's original studio LPs, plus her one live LP (which is a must), and a compilation LP comprised of previously unissued material. So it's complete, but not messy-complete. 'Cause no one likes a mess.

Let's dig in! What follows are her LPs in chronological order, starting with her first studio LP "The Kay Starr Style" from 1953, to "Kay Starr Live At Freddy's" from 1986.

A lot has been written about Kay's life and career over the years, but I think it's best to let Kay tell her own story. The following quotes are pulled from a variety of sources - radio, print and TV interviews, and brief interviews from various books about singers from the 50s and 60s. Give your voice a li'l twang when you read these. It adds to the fun:  

"My job was to feed the chickens. I would pretend like I was playing piano with an old apple box and I'd be singing and humming. And the chickens would look at me and go cluck-cluck. I thought, 'Well, here's my audience.' So I sat on an apple box and sang every song I knew to those chickens. I don't know if I caused them not to lay as many eggs, but my mother did ask me not to sing so much."

"I was twelve-years-old when (Italian-American jazz pioneer) Joe Venuti asked my parents if I could travel with the band. Well, of course my mother loved the idea! She went with me. Joe warned us, 'We're going to be working in hotels where they serve cocktails and things, so we can't tell them how old Kay is. We won't lie, but if they don't ask, don't volunteer!'

"So we played a game. My mother was my sister. My mother loved it because it made her seem much younger, and she still got a chance to look after me and supervise what I was doing."

"Glenn Miller okayed it for me to come and sing with the band for two weeks. Well, I had to get an okay from my father, who had to get an okay from the school board. But, everything was worked out, and I sang with the Glenn Miller Band for two weeks at the Island Casino. It was like a movie set! I'd never worked a place like that! We were right on the New England Sound. When I got up to sing, my God! I was overlooking the water...and the moon...I thought it was just wonderful!"

On her first single: "I sounded like a jazzed-up alfalfa on that. At the time I didn't know what a 'range' was besides something you cooked on, or something that cattle grazed on."

"If I have any style, or any presence on the stage, I'm sure Joe Venuti is responsible for it. Joe once told me if you're going to make a mistake, make it so loud everybody else sounds wrong. I really and truly believe that's why I sing so loud. 

"If you didn’t know the words, you had better make them up, because he’d hit you across the butt with that violin bow, and when I tell you that thing stings, I kid you not! I made up more lyrics than Johnny Mercer."

“People who haven’t seen me either think I’m a 260-pound peroxide blond or a 260-pound black woman. Whites sing one-two-three-four. I sing between the beat, in the cracks, any old way." 

"I run the gamut from hillbilly to jazz to just plain modern music to ballads, and though I may not sing them all well, I feel them. And if I sing them well, I attribute that to the fact that I've sung hillbilly stuff. Contrary to what people say, it's a hard style to sing and it made my voice flexible so that I'm able to have my own style. The nicest compliment ever paid to me was when I was told I sing like a fellow playing an instrument." 

“I am a firm believer that a singer is no more than an actor or an actress set to music. They learn the story, they tell the story, and if they don’t tell the story right, people are not going to like it no matter what the melody is.”

“Bob Crosby’s band told me, ‘You sound like you’ve been raised on bathtub gin.'" 

“I never really auditioned for anything in my life. And I never had a lesson. I did try to learn how to read music once, but it got in the way of my trying to tell the story. If I have to think about all that, then I forget what I came for.”

“I’d never had anybody to mold myself after — I just sang. I just flat-footed sang. I was just naive and loved music so much, I didn't know there were some kinds of music you were supposed to be able to sing and some kinds you weren't. I always knew I'd be a singer whether anybody hired me or not. I'd still be singing for the chickens on my apple box if they hadn't."

"The first time I ever did anything with Van Alexander’s band, we were doing a record date for Capitol and we got the key set and I’m singin’ it my way and he starts to laugh. I stopped and said, ‘What is so funny?’ 

"He was such a sweet man, he put his hand over mine and said, ‘I didn’t mean to laugh. I make arrangements for singers all the time, and when there’s a hole, they sing. You sing, and where there’s a hole, I get to arrange! It’s backwards, and it’s wonderful — so don’t change a thing.'”

"[Rosemary] Clooney went crazy wanting me to teach her to yodel. You can do something that seems like it's a miracle, but the more people ask you how you do it, the harder it gets. She'd say, 'I can't do that yodel to save my life,' and I'd say, 'Well, you're not supposed to. That's not Clooney.'

"Years later, she said, 'Do you still yodel?' And I said, 'No. People like you have asked me about it so much, it got hard to do. I can't even do it anymore.' It's when you don't think about things that they come easy."

I have a tendency to change the melody because of my style of singing. I carry phrases over or let words go loose. Let the band play and then I come in."

"When they brought in rock, hard rock and acid rock, and all kinds of things I didn't understand. I thought God was trying to tell me it was my turn to get off the stage. But people kept calling me and asking me to do things, and I realized I just wasn’t happy not singing."

''I started out in country. When you start out doing something in your formative years, you ever really shake the habit.''

"I like the outdoors. I have a little Indian blood in me - Cherokee - and I come from Oklahoma where there's not an awful lot to do but pop rabbits and go fishing. I'm fundamentally a fisherwoman. Packing up in the High Sierras or fishing down on the Keys in Florida is my idea of fun." 

In Vegas: "I think I grew up with everybody in this room. The Flamingo used to be the largest hotel on the Strip. The airline pilots used it for a beacon."

Wheel of Fortune has been good to me. How could I get tired of it? That’s like saying you get tired of the person who gives you everything in the world. And when I see the expressions on the faces of the audience as they remember the first time they heard the song...the pure, unadulterated pleasure it gives them makes it all worthwhile.”

"There's a joy about being from the country. My kinfolks could never understand why in the world I got paid for doing what they were doing every Sunday on their porch."

"The (first) time I got paid? I had two fifteen minute radio shows a week and I got paid five dollars a week. I was still in grade school. But that was a lot of money, it was during the Depression and all that. My mother was working for five dollars a week and a sack of groceries for the WPA. So that was quite a lot of money. I was paying for all my own schoolbooks and all the little fanciful things I wanted."

"Notice how young people are when they start out in country music? Have you ever seen those little guys? The hats they wear weigh more than they do, you know. They're standing under these great big hats playing a fiddle and everybody on the sides is going, "Ooo, boy!'"

"When I went out on tour, I was fourteen. I was short and I was dark and I was fat, so people didn't know how old I was. My mother was kind of shy - very sweet and dear - and she never pushed me or anything. But she wanted me to do whatever kept me from being frustrated, I guess. Mother's can tell if something is going to be good for their kids, as a rule."

"I never had any arrangements at the start. Just a good ear. I knew when to sing and when to shut up. Never in my life have I auditioned. I've always been in the right place at the right time."

"I've had to overcome some things, but if you trust God, you just say, "Hey, I'm doing everything I can. When's somebody going to come down here and help me?' It's kind of mind over matter."

"I'd been singing for some time (and) I had a bad throat. I'd really sung over and under and around colds for years until finally I got pneumonia - and then I fainted in the wings after doing my show, and when I woke up I was in the hospital. After that I had a strange thing happen. I could be talking or I could be singing, and without any warning, just nothing came out! I couldn't sing.

"So the doctor paralyzed my throat for about four months. Then when I did start to sing again, I sang with just the piano. Finally the doctor said, 'Okay, now you can add a bass.' Then , 'Now you can have drums, but only the brushes.'  It took me almost a year before I was able to sing with a full-blown orchestra. I was a little afraid to punch too much. And I'm - you know I sing real loud. It took a while."

"When I first joined Charlie Barnet's band, I took Lena Horne's place. Can you believe that? Her songs were blues songs, lovely sharecroppin' blues - in a haunted town, with good for nothin' Joe - but phew, there were some high notes. I mean to tell you, I strained myself to get to them. But I got to them."

"I sing on the wrong side of the railroad tracks and the right side of the railroad tracks. If something's been given to you - it must have been God who made me a singer - I don't think you ever stop paying your dues."

On changing her name Kathryn Starks: "I was working at a radio station in Dallas, Texas doing a country show. When they (introduced me) as 'Kathryn Starks," well, they would say, 'Kathryn Stilks,' or 'Staunks,' or 'Stitch.' Finally, one time they said 'Kathryn Stinks.' The manager of the station didn't like that too much and he told me, 'We're going to have to change your name.' 

"That worried me because I thought it'd hurt my daddy's feelings, so we had a meeting we and got to 'S-t-a-r.' I said, 'Can't we elongate that some way or something? I mean that's too - no, I don't like that.' Then somebody said, 'Add another r.' I thought, yeah, I like that. That's not too far from 'Starks.' And it made my daddy happy."

"Capital in the beginning chose the songs for me. They had every big girl singer there was. You name 'em, they had 'em. But what they wanted was someone who could do country. Plus, I can play the washboard (she laughs). I can play the washboard good."

On Rock 'n' Roll Waltz: "Oh, I didn't want to sing that song. A song has got to be a story. It wasn't a story. I loved the song because other people loved it - you gotta love it when other people love it - but I could never figure out why they loved it. I just love music and I love words. I love stories." 

On Wheel Of Fortune: "It was a war song. The Korean War. I got a lot of kids named after me because of that song."

"Yes, I've been married a number of times. I'm not proud at my age to be turned out in the traffic again. I said I was going to do it until I got it right, but I haven't been able to. Every time you get divorced, it means a failure. It's a mark against you. You may not have been a failure all by yourself, but it is a failure."

"Every step you take is a lesson. Learn to roll with the punches. Do not take everything personally. If you start taking everything personally, you become paranoid. And if you become paranoid, you're not good for anything."

"People are special to me. I don't know how anyone could work in the business we're in and not be crazy about people. I have only a few kinfolk. I was an only child. I have an only child. And she has an only child. But we're very closely knit."



Luis said...

Brilliant! I start listen to music in mid 60's with the British R&R invasion when Kay Starr was no longer in fashion.
Much later I got very much into all jazz forms from the 40's, 50's, 60, and early 70's (and some recent revivals). Funnily enough some 4 or 5 years ago, that was when I discovered her fantastic artistry. I got immediately hooked. Thanks a lot for your super share. I guess I am gonna have a very busy week end! Cheers from Portugal

RayKay said...

Thank you for these wonderful uploads! Incredible!!

Dr. Fu Man Chu said...

What a great idea and how carefully executed. Thank you very much!

Faze said...

Fantastic post. Wonderful quotes. Kay Starr is very lucky to have someone appreciate and understand her like this. A landmark for CE.

Luis said...

Let me get back to this fantastic post.
It seems that you inadvertently skipped the cover of file #19. The file contains Kay Starr Country from 1974.

Esther Velazquez said...

You've outdone yourself. I owe you a massive thanks as I didn't have at least 60% of this material. I especially appreciate how each album is properly tagged.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thanks to all of you for your appreciation, it means so much!

And Louis, thanks for pointing out the error with #19. D'oh! #19 is now "Back To The Roots."

Don Dan said...

Hello Cheerful
You run a very interesting blog and this Kay Starr memorial is a must.
I like her since many years and I'd like to add some tracks to those lp's you posted.
She started recording in the early 40's and was good since the first track.
So here are 121 tracks for your pleasure.
Have fun

STARR Kay Collection.zip - 287.00 Mo - http://1fichier.com/?wc3z89sz53


tony said...

For real? I hope you had tons of coffee to complete your incredible, extraordinary homage to Kay Starr. Tons of thanks!

John said...

What a lovely tribute to a great starr (with an extra r for added punch). Thank you so much for all you do.

Mac said...

Fantastic singer and must have been an incredible powerful individual for such output, understand she went through a few husbands as well eh? Seems she saved it all for the music which really is her legacy anyway right Want to echo your attention to tags and details as well - a job very well done.....

Kevin said...

Wow! Thanks! Quite an effort! Much appreciated!

Rocker47 said...

Wow! Very cool. Thank you.

Mike said...

What an amazing collection. Thanks so much!

Files #19 and #20 both seem to be "Back to the Roots"

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome, Mike!

And yes, 19 and 20 are the same, but if you continue to 21, it picks up with the 1981 "Kay Starr" LP.

Because of the doubled 19 and 20, there's 23 files, when there should be 22, but every LP is there. Once I figure out how to correct this without having to re-upload everything (!), I will.

lindo0107 said...

File #23: "This download is currently unavailable. We apologize, but this download is currently unavailable. Please be patient, we will retry your download again in 30 seconds."

Since yesterday...


The Cheerful Earfull! said...

It's working for me as of 02-08-17. Try again! :)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for filling in the gaps in my Kay collection. One can never have too much Kay Starr. Great jazz-pop-country singer. She really could sing anything. Love your blog, Cheerful, but this is one of the best.

Michael said...

Thanks for these Cheerful! I've noticed a strange low hum or buzzing on the Basie Lp during all the tracks, heard best at the start of each track. I'm assuming it's not your issue but from the original source, but thought it worth a mention.