David Whitfield and Mantovani’s Cara Mia took up the number 1 spot for virtually the whole summer in 1954, somehow. As the nights started to grow darker, US singer Kitty Kallen finally got a look in with Little Things Mean a Lot. It had been written a year earlier, with lyrics by Edith Lindeman, a newspaper editor, and disc jockey Carl Stutz, both residing in Richmond, Virginia.
Kitty Kallen, born Katie Kallen, became a star as a child, with her own radio show in Philadelphia before she became a teenager. She joined the Jimmy Dorsey Band at 21 and sang the vocals for his US number one Besame Mucho, later covered by the Beatles on Beatles For Sale. Her recording of Little Things Mean a Lot saw her career go up a notch, hitting the top of the Billboard charts before doing the same in the UK.
It’s a rather sweet little number, and a move away from Kallen’s big-band stylings to something approaching pop. She sings a list of ways in which her lover can make her happy, and luckily for him, they’re all easily enough done. She’s a very low-maintenance partner. Beating Lennon and McCartney by ten years, she points out expensive jewellery isn’t important to her. Money can’t buy her love. Was this their inspiration? Possibly. By the end of 1954 the song had sold over two million copies, and with her beautiful voice and striking looks, she found herself topping polls to be the most famous female singer around. It all went wrong from there.
In 1955, her throat began to seize up, but only affected her when performing live. This convinced her the problem was psychological, and she spent five years with psychotherapists, none of which helped matters. Instead she found relief in religion, and returned to performing for a few years before retiring in the mid-60s.
Bizarrely, after she retired, several other women tried to pass themselves off as Kitty Kallen. In 1978, she and her family were baffled by reports of her death. It transpired one of her impersonators had died. ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ wasn’t having it though. Frank Sinatra (whose Three Coins in the Fountain took over at number 1 the week after Little Things Mean a Lot) called the family to offer his condolences, but wouldn’t take no for an answer when Kitty’s husband explained and said she was just sleeping (perhaps a bad choice of words, in retrospect). He refused to hang up until he could hear her voice. Kallen actually lived until 2016, dying at the ripe old age of 94.
Written by: Edith Lindeman & Carl Stutz
Producer: Milt Gabler
Weeks at number 1: 1 (10-16 September)