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Kay Kyser

Kay Kyser couldn't read a note of music, and spent nearly as much time doing comedy as music on radio. But for over 15 years, from 1933 until the end of the 1940s, he was one of the most popular bandleaders and music personalities in America, and delighted tens of millions of listeners. Born into a family of academics, Kyser was supposed to pursue a career in law, but abandoned this after he took over the campus band at his college from its leader, Hal Kemp. He became so popular as a personality that he was on the road by the time he graduated.

In order to compensate for his lack of musical training, he hired arranger/composer George Duning (later the author of film scores for movies such as Picnic), a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Kyser and his band became nationally known following a series of radio broadcasts from the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica -- a group of gimmicks, such as having the vocalist sing the titles of the songs to be performed, interrupting a chorus for the band's theme, "Thinking of You," and announcing the singer's name, made his group stand out on the radio, and an engagement at the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago made Kyser a star.

His radio show, Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge, ran for 11 years, mixing comic quiz questions with swing music, ballads, and novelty tunes; Kyser presided over it all dressed in an academic gown complete with mortarboard, presenting an easygoing Southern personality and comic manner. He was so popular that RKO signed him up for a series of films, starting with That's Right, You're Wrong, playing himself. He made one movie for MGM in 1944, Swing Fever, which was an unsuccessful attempt to cast Kyser in a Harold Lloyd mold.

Kyser's featured vocalist during much of the late '30s and early '40s was Ginny Simms, who was succeeded by Gloria Wood, Julie Conway, Trudy Erwin, and Georgia Carroll ("There Goes That Song Again"), the latter a singer and former John Robert Powers model whom Kyser married. The other featured personality was Merwyn Bogue, who was known on the air as Ish Kabibble, who handled the novelty numbers. Kyser's hits, for Brunswick during most of the 1930s and Columbia after 1939, included "You, You Darlin'," "Playmates," "With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair," "Friendship," "Tennessee Fish Fry," "The White Cliffs of Dover," and "Old Buttermilk Sky." During World War II, Kyser and his band endeared themselves to millions of listeners and servicemen by appearing at over 1,800 military installations in USO shows, in addition to their regular appearances on radio. Although the emphasis was on comedy, the band was recognized as a capable swing jazz outfit.

The radio show was canceled in 1949, and Kyser retired the following year. He declined to participate with his former bandmembers in the making of the 1962 Capitol album Kyser Hits in Hi-Fi, which featured comedian Stan Freberg imitating Kyser's spoken song introductions. During the rest of his life, he spent time as a traveling lecturer on Christian Science, an area in which he was a true scholar. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Kollege Of Musical Knowledge

1. Thinking Of You

2. Cry, Baby, Cry

3. Music, Maestro, Please!

4. The Umbrella Man

5. Cuckoo In The Clock

6. Three Little Fishies

7. With The Wind And The Rain In Your Hair

9. Alexander The Swoose (Half-Swan, Half-Goose)

10. 'Til Reveille

11. The White Cliffs Of Dover

13. Who Wouldn't Love You

14. Johnny Doughboy Found A Rose In Ireland

15. He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings

16. Jingle, Jangle, Jingle

17. Can't Get Out Of This Mood

18. Let's Get Lost

19. Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition

20. Strip Polka

21. There Goes That Song Again

22. Ole Buttermilk Sky

23. The Old Lamplighter

24. Managua, Nicaragua

25. On A Slow Boat To China

26. Woody Woodpecker Song

x

Track List: A Strict Education In Music, 50 Of The Best

Disc 1

1. Thinking Of You (Theme)

2. You Go To My Head

3. The Umbrella Man

4. What Have You Got That Gets Me?

5. Two Sleepy People

6. Deep Purple

7. On The Road To Mandalay

8. Three Little Fishies

9. Stairway To The Stars

10. The Answer Is Love

11. Indian Summer

12. Friendship

14. Like The Fella Once Said

15. You've Got Me This Way

16. The Bad Humour Man

17. Lights Out 'til Reveille

18. Why Don't We Do This More Often

20. How Long Did I Dream?

21. Que Chica

22. Humpty Dumpty Heart

23. Who Wouldn't Love You?

24. Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree

25. Pushin' Sand

26. Jingle, Jangle, Jingle

Disc 2

1. Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition

2. Strip Polka

4. I Dug A Ditch

5. The Girl I Left Behind Me

6. Victory Polka

7. Always

8. Shine On Harvest Moon

9. Limehouse Blues

10. There Goes That Song Again

11. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive

12. Bell Bottom Trousers

13. Horses Don't Bet On People

14. That's For Me

15. Love On A Greyhound Bus

16. Ole Buttermilk Sky

17. Huggin' And Chalkin'

18. The Old Lamplighter

19. Managua, Nicaragua

20. As Long As I Live

21. Boin-N-N-Ng

22. Katrina

23. On A Slow Boat To China

24. Woody Woodpecker

x

Track List: The Best Of Kay Kyser & His Orchestra

Disc 1

1. Ish-Ka-Bibble (I Should Worry)

2. It's Love I'm After

3. Did You Mean It?

4. 'Cause My Baby Says It's So

5. Cry Baby Cry

6. So You Left Me For The Leader Of A Swing Band?

7. Music, Maestro, Please!

8. Ya Got Me

9. The Umbrella Man

10. Gotta Get Some Shut-Eye

11. Cuckoo In The Clock

12. I Promise You

13. Three Little Fishies

14. The Tinkle Song

15. The Merry Old Land Of Oz

16. Way Back In 1939 A.D.

17. Who's Yehoodi?

18. Alexander The Swoose (Half Swan-Half Goose)

Disc 2

1. 'Til Reveille

3. A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal)

4. Who Wouldn't Love You?

5. He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings

7. Let's Get Lost

8. Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition!

9. Strip Polka

10. Can't You Read Between The Lines?

11. Rosemary

12. Horses Don't Bet On People

13. Slowly

14. One-zy Two-zy (I Love You-zy)

15. Ole Buttermilk Sky

16. The Old Lamplighter

17. On A Slow Boat To China

18. The Woody Woodpecker Song

Comments

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ulfricsunnyc l o a k
I sense a lot of fallout players haha
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Love this stuff makes me wanna play fallout 3 new Vegas and 4
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Fallout New Vegas
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Listening to this almost makes me wish for a nuclear winter
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Fallout!
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drkling4914
Don't forget Handsome Harry Babbit.
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Brings back memories of 1945 onIe SHIMA,OKINAW A . K a y e Kyser and band performed there for us GIs.
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my kind of music
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Enjoyed watching him on a movie the other day!
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Kay Kyser was the epitome of alternate music choices if you wanted to stray from the Swing Bands that predominated the radio music programs. It was an organization that centered on entertainmen t , such as, "Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge".S a m
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jbsientz
Kay Kyser's orchestra was indeed known as a "sweet" band who popularized a bunch of novelty songs. But he had some bona fide jazz sides too (listen to "Pushin' Sand" for an example). And he gave the world some of the most beloved vocalists of the post-war era, like Ginny Simms and Mike Douglas (yes, every afternoon TV watcher's favorite host from the 60s into the 80s).
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I was always under the impression,a s a child and young adult, that Kyser's was a "Mickey Mouse " band.Isn't this the same Kay Kyser who recorded "The Bad Humor Man" and "Three Little Fishies" with Ish Kabible as the featured singer and Sully Mason backing him up? If I'm mistaken please correct me. I wonder if "His Feet Too Big For The Bed" would be so revered if recorded by Kay Kyser and not Stan Kenton?

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