Monday, January 28, 2008


Kay Starr, You're Just In Love.
Kay Starr, Share Croppin' Blues.
Kay Starr, Garbage Can Blues.

Kay Starr
, born in Oklahoma in 1922, of Iroquois and Irish ancestry, was singing in a swing band (Joe Venuti's orchestra) when she was barely 15. During WWII, she sang with Glenn Miller, Wingy Malone and Charlie Barnet, but as the '40s ebbed, Starr cast her lot with mainstream pop and novelty songs, like most of her peers. Some of the discs she cut had grandeur, like "Wheel of Fortune," others were just dire, like "Rock and Roll Waltz" (upon first reading the latter's lyric sheet, "I thought 'Jesus, I'm gonna have to take a Dramamine to record this song!'" she recalled later).

By 1960, though, Starr was moving back towards jazz, making a number of fine LPs for Capitol where she took on standards like "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Lover Man." One of her most inspired covers of the period was Irving Berlin's "You're Just In Love."

Berlin had written "You're Just In Love" in 1950 for the Broadway show Call Me Madam, starring his late-in-life muse, Ethel Merman (here's a performance by Donald O'Connor and Merman, from the 1953 film version). It features one of Berlin's favorite composing tricks, which he had been using since the First World War, the use of counterpoint--a main melody overlaid with a secondary melody, each with its own lyric. While the song had been designed as a duet, Starr, via overdubbing, sings both parts.

"You're Just in Love" is far from a jazz song, but "entering over a bass and drums vamp, [Starr] gives it an instantly bluesy interpretation with her Oklahoma twang; a guitar is added, followed by the orchestra, pacing her with Basie-style riffs in a Van Alexander arrangement." (Gary Giddins).

Recorded 5 March 1960 and released on the Capitol LP Movin' On Broadway.

As a bonus, here are two glorious Starr performances from the mid-'40s: the down-home "Share Croppin' Blues," with the Barnet Orchestra, recorded 3 August 1944 (on Girl Singers of the Big Swing Bands), and the fast and lurid "Garbage Can Blues," recorded with Barney Bigard on 27 December 1947 (on Complete Lamplighter Recordings). "Here comes the dirty part," Starr winks, just as the song heats up.

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