Kay Kyser was one of the most outrageous, over the top performers of the whole swing era. From the late 30s to the late 40s he had eleven number one records and thirty-five top tens. Songs like 'Three Little Fishies', '(I got spurs ) Jingle Jangle Jingle', 'Slow Boat to China', 'Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition', and 'Ole Buttermilk Sky' have stayed in America's hearts for decades. He kept his NBC radio quiz/music/ comedy show, KAY KYSER'S COLLEGE OF MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE a favorite with swing fans for eleven years, and made seven feature films. Some of his costars included John Barrymore, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney, Boris Karloff, Jane Wyman, and Bela Lugosi.
Kyser was a southerner, and that came across in some of his on-air expressions. When he would kick the band into it's next song, he'd proclaim, 'C'mon Chillen, YESS' DANCE!' He'd then dance across the stage in his college professor's robe and mortarboard, making faces at the crowd and teasing the contestants. Kyser's radio gang consisted of vocalists Ginny Simms, Harry Babbittt, Sully Mason, Ish Kabibble (Merwyn Bogue), Mike Douglas (later the TV host), and famous model/singer Georgia Carroll, whom he would later marry. Swing legend Glenn Miller was quoted as saying the only bandleader he envied was Kay Kyser, who performed over 1800 camp shows for WW2 personnel. Yes, James King Kern Kyser was a lightning rod to audiences onstage, but a very private man with many contradictions, offstage. Read More >>>
KAY KYSER-THE OL' PROFESSOR OF SWING! AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN SUPERSTAR is the first published full length biography of the man and his band that set swing music on its ear-then disappeared! It's the warm, yet dramatic story of a beloved entertainer who hid a debilitating illnes from his fans, quit show business unannounced at his peak, and went home again to his beloved North Carolina, where he began a new life as statesman, fundraiser, and worker/lecturer for his church. He resurfaced thirty years later as president of the Worldwide Church of Christian Science. He refused all interviews about his big band career, and militantly preserved his privacy, putting his hand up in front of his face if news photographers tried to take his picture.
How could someone who accomplished so much be forgotten today? Some of it was his own doing, and Steven Beasley's book explains the rest. To see what Kyser's appeal was, there are many clips on Youtube. There's also a Facebook page under the book's title and two websites, www.kaykyser.net and www.kaykyserbook.com The book is temporarily out of print. So listen to some of the great music Jimbo has put on this page, and C'MON CHILLEN, YESS' DANCE!