Get to know Kitty Kallen at a glance
Kitty Kallen is an American popular singer whose career is active in the 1940s (where she performed with several big band acts) until the early 60s. Since in her adolescence she had been the lead singer with the big bands of Artie Shaw, Jan Savitt, Jack Teargarden, Jimmy Dorsey, and Harry James. With Jimmy Dorsey’s band, Kallen (who replaced Helen O’Connell as lead singer of the band) scored a hit with “Besame Mucho.” She also achieved a chart-topping hit with “It’s Been A Long Long Time,” this time with Harry James and his band. As a solo singer her popularity rose further via the #1 single “Little Things Mean A Lot” in 1954. She continued to make records with varying degrees of success, until a lung condition forced Kallen to retire from show business for good. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Early life and thrust into showbusiness
Traditional pop singer Kitty Kallen was born Katherine Kallinsky in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 25, 1922. As a child she had a gift for mimicking popular singers. Using that talent to the hilt, she went on to win amateur singing contests. While still a kid, Kallen also appeared on the popular radio program The Children’s Hour and other several radio shows.
The swing and big bands had swept off the whole country. By her teenage years Kallen had begun singing with the big bands led by Jan Savitt and Artie Shaw. In 1940 she joined Jack Teargarden’s Orchestra, having her first full-time singing role there.
With the big bands of Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James
In 1942 she moved to Jimmy Dorsey and his band. With Dorsey, Kallen achieved big top 10 pop hits. They include 1943’s “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” and “Star Eyes” (with big band lead crooner Bob Eberly); and 1944’s “Besame Mucho” (with Eberly again) and “When They Ask About You.”
A year later, Kallen joined Harry James and his band and together they went on to score hits such as 1945’s “I’m Beginning To See the Light,” “I Don’t Care Who Knows It,” “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” “Yah-Ta-Ta, Yah, Ta-Ta,” “11:60 PM,” “I’ll Buy That Dream,” “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” and “Waitin’ for the Train to Come In.” Most of these hits reached the top 10 on the pop chart. With Shaw and his band, Kallen scored a Top 40 hit in 1946 with “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”
Striking out on her own
Following the end of the Second World War, Kallen continued to sing on several radio programs. Around that period Kallen struck out on her own, singing in clubs around the country.
In 1949 Kallen released her solo single “Kiss Me Sweet” on Mercury label. It went to #30 on the pop charts.
It was followed by “Juke Box Annie” in 1950 (#17 pop), which was also released on Mercury. Kallen also recorded for other labels inlcuding Musicraft and Signature, but her stints there didn’t bring her big hits.
Reaching no. 1 on the pop chart with “Little Things Mean A Lot”
By 1954 Kallen had moved to Decca Records, where at last her efforts paid off with 1954’s hits such as “I Want You All to Myself (Just You)” (#23 pop) and her most popular song “Little Things Mean a Lot.”
“Little Things Mean a Lot” (written by Edith Lindeman and Carl Sutz) zoomed all the way to #1 on the US pop chart, and #1 as well on the UK singles chart. It was to become Kallen’s signature tune.
Later career and forced early retirement
She followed up “Little Things Mean A Lot” with another Top Ten hit, her rendition of the Shep Field’s original smash “In the Chapel in the Moonlight.” It also charted in 1954, at #4 pop.
Kallen continued to be present on the charts but by the mid-1950s rock and roll had taken over the country by storm. As a result, her star had begun to dim, as well as many other traditional pop crooners’. She managed to achieve a few more Top 40 hits such as the re-release of her prior hit “I Want You All to Myself (Just You)” (#30 pop), and 1959’s “If I Give My Heart to You,” (#34 pop). She and musician Georgie Shaw achieved another Top 40 hit in 1956, with “Go On with the Wedding.” Her 1962 single “My Coloring Book” managed a strong #18 position on the pop chart. Kallen’s last charting single was 1967’s “One Grain of Sand.”
She went on performing and recording until a lung condition forced her to retire for good. Some sources say that she’s currently living at a retirement community in Maryland, as of this writing. Kallen has a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.