US pop and jazz singer Kay Starr hit number 1 with Comes A-Long A-Love (how ’50s’ is that title?). Unlike the first two top-selling tracks, this tune, written by former Tin Pan Alley songwriting veteran Al Sherman, was a chirpy, breezy little number, in which Starr extols the virtues of love. If you’re in love, you’re always singing, bells are ringing… you get the idea.
Kay Starr had been born Katherine Laverne Starks on 22 July 1922 on a reservation in Dougherty, Oklahoma to a native American father and mixed Irish and native American mother. The Starks moved to Dallas when her father got a job installing water sprinklers. Her mother raised chickens, which little Stark would serenade. Pretty idyllic, I’m sure you’ll agree. Her aunt was so impressed by the seven-year-old’s voice, she arranged for her to sing on a local radio station.
Fast forward a few years and the Starks were living in Memphis, and their daughter was regularly performing on the radio there. Misspellings in her fanmail resulted in her taking on the highly appropriate stage name Kay Starr.
Starr was only 17 and still at high school when she made her first recordings with legendary bandleader Glenn Miller in 1939. However, her vocal range didn’t really fit, and the partnership didn’t last long.
After working with Wingy Manone and Charlie Barnet’s ensembles, Starr took the plunge and went solo in 1946, but in a crowded market of female singers like Peggy Lee, the young hopeful was often left with the poorest material to record. Nonetheless, she did have hits in America, most notably with Wheel of Fortune in 1952, which went to number 1 there. Comes-A-Long-A-Love was released later that year.
Although lyrically basic by today’s standards, this song does have something going for it. It must do as I’ve only heard it twice and it’s been in my head for days. Not sure about the lyrics below though…
‘I don’t care how
Blue you’re feeling now
You sparkle yes you bubble
Look out you gotta whole lotta trouble’
Is Starr basically telling the subject of her song, “I don’t care how down you are at the moment, just go and fall in love, alright?”. It seems harsh advice.
Nonetheless, she sings Sherman’s tune with a certain panache. In her voice you can hear the stylings of the rock’n’roll singers that would be all over the charts in a few years.
Comes A-Long A-Love was only number 1 for one week, but Starr, who Billie Holliday once proclaimed to be ‘the only white woman who could sing the blues’, would reach pole position one more time. It’s also worth noting that this is the first number 1 to be produced by Mitch Miller, the conductor and A&R man who would be responsible for many more chart-toppers over the next few years.
Written by: Al Sherman
Producer: Mitch Miller
Weeks at number 1: 1 (23-29 January)
Footballer Ronnie Moore – 29 January
Criminal Derek Bentley – 29 January
In the News:
At 9am on 28 January 1953, Derek Bentley was controversially hanged for murder at Wandsworth Prison in London. Bentley issued the infamous and ambiguous phrase “Let him have it” to his friend and accomplice Christopher Craig, and a policeman was shot dead. Bentley, who had health and developmental issues, was pardoned for the crime 45 years later, and the tragic case helped bring about the eventual end of the death penalty in the UK.