Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Kay Kyser was one of the most successful band leaders of the swing era. In all, his band recorded over 400 sides and had eleven number one hits. Kyser was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1905. While at the University of North Carolina he was a cheerleader and director of student plays. At the recommendation of Hal Kemp, he took over the leadership, from Kemp, of a local band. After his college career, he continued to lead his own band, and in 1934, was booked into the Blackhawk Club in Chicago. It was there that he developed the gimmick that he would be known for, The Kollege of Musical Knowledge, an amateur night quiz for the contestants. In 1938 he hired vocalist Ginny Simms. Broadcast regionally by the Mutual Broadcasting System, he went national and to New York and had a hit show on NBC radio. In 1949, he took his band to television, but after the show was cancelled in 1950, he retired from show business and never returned. I'm fairly certain that the singer with Kyser is Ginny Simms. She left the band in 1941, so if I'm right in my identification of Simms, with the NBC mic, this photo was taken between 1939 and 1941.