KAY STARR - alias Katherine Starks


KAY STARRwas known as Katherine Starks when she graduated from Tech in 1940.  By graduation she was already touring with the "Big Bands" and soon became a major recording artist of the 50's and 60's.  Her most famous recording is "Wheel of Fortune". 


With Joe Venuti

Circa 1940-1941


Circa 1945

Circa 1945-1946

The text below is from "musicianguide.com"  biography of musicians:

In 1935, her father's work uprooted the family again and they moved to Memphis, Tennessee where she soon landed on country radio station WMPS's Saturday Night Jamboree. She sang with Grand Old Opry legend Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys; she was only fifteen. WMPS frequently received fan mail addressed to names like Kathryn Stokes, Starch, Stairs and even Kathryn Stinks and eventually WMPS's management asked Starr and her father to meet with them for the purpose of changing her name to one that listeners could easily remember. They explained the reason to her father and eventually came up with the name "Star". Her parents felt it was inappropriate because God made the star. It was Starr herself who came up with the idea of adding another "R" and the name Kay was chosen after Katherine was shortened to "Kay."

While attending Technical High School in Memphis, her radio program was heard by Joe Venuti, a popular orchestra leader, who was slated to perform at the famous Peabody Hotel. Venuti's contract called for a girl singer, which he did not have. Venuti visited her parents to obtain permission for her to appear with his orchestra; they agreed, provided she would be accompanied and returned home before midnight since she was only fifteen years old. That same year she briefly appeared with Bob Crosby and his Bobcats on the syndicated Chesterfield Supper Club in Detroit, and she also toured Canada with her mother, who posed as her sister. In July of 1939, she also replaced ailing singer, Marion Hutton, who collapsed with exhaustion on the bandstand. The seventeen year old Starr was considered to be a better singer than Hutton in several ways. Starr also appeared with Glenn Miller's band at Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, and recorded "Baby Me" and "Love, with a Capital You" with the band.

In 1946 she went solo and was signed on to the newly formed Capitol Records by Dave Dexter after he had heard her sing in a local nightclub. Capitol had a stable of the finest female vocalists in America including Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, Ella Mae Morse and Margaret Whiting. There Starr met Tennessee Ernie Ford and they recorded duets together. She remained with Capitol and produced such hits a "Bonaparte's Retreat," "Wheel of Fortune," "I'm the Lonesomest Gal in Town," "Half a Photograph," "Allez Vous En," "Crazy," and "Kay's Lament." "Bonaparte's Retreat" was originally an instrumental written by Pee Wee King , the co-author of the Tennessee Waltz. Its lyrics occurred when Starr visited her family in Dougherty, Oklahoma, and her cousin took her to a new "Juke joint" in town. She had a "fiddle song" and asked the manager to pull the record from the juke box. She called Roy Acuff in Nashville, who was the country and western singer and country music publisher, asking that lyrics be added. Acuff subsequently enlisted King's aid and lyrics were added to his instrumental composition. It rose to number four on the charts and nearly a million dollars in records were sold in 1950.

Please visit the Musician Guide website for the full biography.  Click here.





September 21, 1950 

Kay Starr opened a 10-evening engagement at the Fairgrounds Casino, singing twice each evening.  Her most request numbers included "Mississippi" (which has a line that goes:  "What a thrill it is to be back in Memphis, Tennessee"), "Bonaparte's Retreat, "Wabash Cannonball", "I Wanna Be Loved", "And Maybe You'll be there", "Ain't Misbehaving", "Mama Goes Where Papa Goes", "He's a Good Man to Have Around", and "I'm the Lonesomest Gal in Town", one of the all-time Starr favorites.


                         The Commercial Appeal Files


April 1939


Memphis singer went on to national fame: Kay Starr is pictured in April 1939. Her real name was Katherine Starks, but already she was using the radio name of Kay Starr on Memphis' WMPS where she was featured regularly with the "Rhythmaticians." Starr went on to become known nationwide for her singing. By 1950, her most frequently requested numbers included "Mississippi" (one line of which goes, "What a thrill it is to be back in Memphis, Tennessee"), "Bonaparte's Retreat," "Wabash Cannonball," "I Wanna Be Loved," "And Maybe You'll Be There," "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Mama Goes Where Papa Goes," "He's a Good Man to Have Around" and "I'm the Lonesomest Gal in Town," one of the all-time Starr favorites.


The Commercial Appeal Files


Vist Kay Starr's Website:  http://www.kaystarr.net 


Kay Starr - 1999

                                      Kay Starr - 2000