Move over,the "Ol' Professor", Kay Kyser is BACK!
He was one of the most outrageous, over the top performers of the whole swing era. From the late 30s to the late 40s he was the physical embodiment of the word success, with eleven #1 records and thirty-five top tens! He starred in seven feature films with such co-stars as Lucille Ball, John Barrymore, Karloff, Lugosi, Lorre. Kyser kept his radio show, Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge in the top ten for eleven years on NBC, yet if you ask the average swing fan about him today, they'll likely reply, "Kay Kyser. Who's she?"
You see, Kay Kyser disappeared from the general public in 1950. Quit. Went home. Never came back. Made his million, then left without even making an announcement. In contrast to his zany character onstage, he was equally as serious off. "As exuberant as he was while performing, at a party you couldn't get him aroused…" said KK orchestra singer, "Handsome" Harry Babbitt to this writer in a 1995 interview for the upcoming 1 hour TV retrospective on Kay & the band, KAY KYSER- the OL' PROFESSOR of SWING!
"But those were magic days…" says Babbitt who, along with Sully Mason, Ginny Simms, Ish Kabibble (real name Merwyn Bogue) helped make the Kyser band a solid, first-rate performing unit. The duets Babbitt performed w/ Simms were "like buttah", whether they were beautiful ballads like YOU & I or spoofing Romeo & Juliet in WAY BACK IN 1939 A.D. THIS band was secure enough to be downright silly, something the Millers and Goodmans would never have done. But for any detractors, let it be known that the silliness was ONE side of this incrediby gifted bunch of people whom KK guitarist/composer Roc Hillman called a "functional family.""Everyone got along, and it was happy times all the time," says Roc. "Kay believed if HE didn't have fun- no one had fun." One can't forget the enormous contributions of arranger/ composer George Duning, who gave the band its sound, and eventually went on to score many well known films.
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