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KAY STARR
WHEEL OF FORTUNE

28 original mono recordings 1944-1952
Complied by Ray Crick and Peter Dempsey
Transfer by Peter Dempsey
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5463 [77.31]

 

 

Crotchet Budget price


  1. THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE
  2. YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE
  3. IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT
  4. STORYMY WEATHER
  5. HONEY
  6. AFTER YOUíVE GONE
  7. IíM THE LONELIEST GIRL IN TOWN
  8. YOUíVE GOTTA SEE MOMMA EVERY NIGHT
  9. PLEASE LOVE ME
  10. YOU WERE ONLY FOOLINí
  11. SO TIRED
  12. WABASH CANNONBALL
  13. HOW IT LIES, HOW IT LIES, HOW IT LIES
  14. BONAPARTíS RETREAT
  15. HOOP-DE-DOO
  16. MISSISSIPPI
  17. IíLL NEVER BE FREE
  18. AIíNT NOBODYíS BUSINESS BUT MY OWN
  19. OH, BABE
  20. LOVESICK BLUES
  21. ANGRY
  22. COME ON-A MY HOUSE
  23. I WAITED A LITTLE TOO LONG
  24. FOOL, FOOL, FOOL
  25. KAYíS LAMENT
  26. SIDE BY SIDE
  27. COMES A-LONG A-LOVE
  28. WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD

Kay Starrís mother was of Cherokee, Choctaw and Irish descent and her father was a full-blooded Iraquois Indian. Her talent for singing was revealed early, but it was her maternal Aunt Norah who egged her on at the age of thirteen to enter a Dallas Radio stationís weekly talent contest at Dallasís Melba Theatre. Here she took third place with the chance to perform on air. Soon Kay won the listenerís vote and was awarded her own thrice-weekly 15 minutes spot for three dollars per night during which she sang mainly hillbilly numbers. It wasnít until her family moved to Memphis that Kay landed her own radio show. From then on many well known in the profession must have noticed her potential. Soon the wheel of fortune began to turn more in Kayís favour and Glenn Miller hired her as a temporary replacement for the indisposed Marion Hulton. Although she only stayed with Miller two weeks, that stay brought her more fame and the prestige of having worked with Americaís most famous orchestra. It was while at the height of World War Two that her day-to-day activity centred on entertaining the troops with its unremitting travel and one night stands caused her health to suffer, but after a rest cure she recovered and carried on with her career.

Her recording of "You Always Hurt The One You Love" was made in New York in October 1944 with Charlie Barnet and his orchestra. Barnet had a big band and in this number you hear all the instruments playing clearly and they are well worth hearing too. After a long introduction from the band you hear Kay sing. I like her deep, warm and sweet-sounding voice, and you know she means every word. A good number to follow is "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight" recorded in March 1945 in Los Angeles with The Capitol International Jazz Men. This is quite a nice song, but not one I enjoyed as much as the first. However, I do like how the Jazz Men play throughout. The many different instrumentalists are clearly heard and Kay certainly sings with her usual clarity but to my mind itís the musicians who make this recording.

I was delighted to hear again the great "Stormy Weather" which Kay recorded in Los Angeles in March 1945, again with The Capitol Jazz Men. I know this song very well and love this particular arrangement where the orchestra plays such a big part, particularly the pianist. Kay sings in such a way that you know that although itís stormy she accepts it no matter what. Thatís the kind of voice Kay has. She can effortlessly convey how she feels. I was less impressed with her next recording. This is "Honey" recorded in Los Angeles in June 1945. I have to say I found it difficult to discover who was this Honey Kay was singing about. The orchestra again scores however, showing that she was very lucky with her arrangers and orchestras. This is proved again in "After Youíve Gone" recorded with The Lamplighter Five in Los Angeles in June 1946. The instrumentalists here are brilliant and I liked this number very much. Although Kay needs to pause at times, the band fills in with some great playing.

"Youíve Gotta See Mama Evíry Night, Or You Canít See Mama At All" was made with Dave Cavanaugh and his music in October 1947. I have listened to this recording several times, trying to decide if I liked it. Kay as usual sings it well, but I thought the music too loud, though Kay as usual is able to match the volume of the band. But this is not one for me. Much more to my liking is the quiet and gentle "Please Love Me" again with Dave Cavanaugh. On first hearing the recording I was again impressed by how Kay could adapt her voice to any style. She may sound a little shrill to start with, but once you are accustomed to her way with a sweet number you understand every word.

Another pleasant number to follow is "You Were Only Fooliní" recorded in Los Angeles in August 1948. Kay sings this in a deeply heartfelt way, tells how she had been fooled as she had been falling in love. Perhaps not everyoneís type of song, but itís pleasant to listen to. Also you will enjoy how the pianist and later the saxophone play during the refrains. Next is a great favourite of mine, "So Tired", recorded in Los Angeles that November. I wonder how many people have felt tired of waiting for someone. Well Kay certainly tells you what it is like as she sings this moving song and the orchestra plays along with her just as meaningfully as though they understand too.

I must say I donít find Kayís version of "Wabash Cannonball" easy to follow as she sings it so fast. She even ends up yodelling a few bars, which was a big mistake, I think. Itís not an easy number to describe or even like. The orchestra does play brilliantly, though, and Kay keeps pace with them. At the same time in Los Angeles in February 1949 Kay recorded with Frank De Vol and his orchestra "How It Lies". In her warm, deep voice Kay sings of someone who lies and keeps on doing so. I thought the orchestra could have lowered their volume a bit, although Kay can be heard. Not a song I would want to hear too often and not one of her best.

We follow with "Bonaparteís Retreat" that Kay recorded in Los Angeles in February 1950 with Lou Busch and his orchestra. This was Kayís first substantial hit, a near million-seller. According to the liner notes Kay had expressed a liking for the tune of Pee Wee Kingís country and western rendering of this. She sings it clearly and you hear every word with the band accompanying excellently. I loved it and am not surprised it was a hit. Another hit followed this for Kay. It was a cover version of Perry Comoís "Hoop-de-doo" made in Los Angeles in March 1950 with Frank De Vol. Itís amazing how versatile Kay is even though her voice keeps that same warm quality no matter what the number. This particular one is a good example of her versatility. Her next recording was "Mississippi" recorded in Los Angeles in May 1950, again with Frank De Vol. This is a lively, jazzy number and you can well imagine Kay swaying in time to the band as she sings. I know I felt that way. No one could rest while listening to this and what an excellent party addition. A much slower recording is next one and yet even this has an underlying swing to it.

"Ill Never Be Free" was made in Los Angeles in June 1950 with Cliff Stone and his band and she is joined here by Tennessee Ernie Ford for a duet. The band follows in the background making sure they have the volume right. The flip side of this record was another duet with Tennessee Ernie, "Ainít Nobodyís Business But My Own". This is fast and furious - an incredible duet, lively, bouncy, destroying any ideas anyone might have of relaxing. No one sleeps while this is on. Another number that wonít send you to sleep is "Oh Babe" recorded in Los Angeles October 1950 with Frank De Vol. Kay really does enjoy the bouncy and energetic numbers and here again she has a band really able to keep up. The male chorus join in by calling out `Oh Babeí, nothing else, but it fits perfectly as Kay sings in a breezy way. Listening to "Lovesick Blues" made in Los Angeles in December 1950 with Lou Busch I wondered how to describe Kayís voice generally. Itís certainly distinctive, but itís not an easy voice to place in any category. A good number to follow is "Angry", recorded in June 1951 with Dave Cavanaugh. Here she appears to change the tone of her voice again when telling someone not to be angry as she was only teasing. A recording that makes you realise again all the different types of numbers Kay Starr sang is "Fool, Fool, Fool" recorded in Los Angeles in March 1952, with Lee Young and his orchestra and The Lancers. This is a blues number and The Lancers start by singing in a deep murmur their "La-de-dah-de-dohs", and you hear this in the background all through as Kay tells us what a fool she has been. The flip side of this was "Kay's Lament" which is another blues-type number.

It was a real pleasure to hear the revival of the Harry Woods 1927 standard "Side By Side" recorded with Hal Mooney and Orchestra in August 1952. A great favourite all over the world and sung by many people, I cannot now get out of my mind our own late comedian Les Dawson who as part of his act would play this with all the wrong notes on the piano. Kay, of course, does this full justice and I do like the accompaniment of the vocal group in the background. A jaunty lively number to follow this is "Come A-Long A-love" with Hal Mooney recorded in the same month. I didnít find it easy to make out the words but when Kay has a number such as this itís enough to listen and just go along with her. What better to follow than another lively energetic number with "Waiting At The End Of The Road", again with Hal Mooney from July 1952. Kay really brings this to life and I think you will enjoy this as much I did.

It is appropriate to leave Kayís theme song "Wheel of Fortune" to the end even though the CD places it first. She recorded it with Harold Mooney and his orchestra in Los Angeles January 1952. She sings it, as you would expect, brilliantly. Pleading to her wheel of fortune not to let her down, but to keep turning and, as it proved, it did all she said through her career. Kayís million-selling version proved an out-and-out winner, a best seller that stayed for 25 weeks in the American Charts.

Yet again Living Era have brought back a great artist of the recent past in superb sound showing every aspect of her career when it was at its height.

Joan Duggan

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