Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Beverly Kenney

My liner notes for the 2006 Japanese SSJ Records release, "Snuggled on Your Shoulder":

Beverly Kenney was born in Harrison, New Jersey on January 29, 1932 and began her professional singing career in Miami Beach in 1953. The following year she joined the Dorsey Brothers band, but only remained with them for a few months before going solo again. And by 1955 she was well on her way.

In 1955 alone she recorded three albums accompanied by the likes of Ralph Burns, Johnny Smith and a small group contingent from the Basie band for the small but prestigious Roost label. And there were appearances in a number of top clubs, like Chicago's Mister Kelly's and on major national TV shows, such as Steve Allen's. In 1957 she signed with a major label, Decca. But by 1960 it was all over. Beset by changing mass tastes in music (Kenney once wrote a song entitled "I Hate Rock and Roll"), suffering money woes, and complicated most likely by undiagnosed manic depression, on April 13th of that year she committed suicide.

It is somehow fitting that the issue of this previously unreleased vocal-piano set, the first "new" material by Beverly Kenney in nearly a half-century, should occur in Japan where critics and fans have long continued to revere and appreciate her.

In addition to the ten duet sides, included is a bonus track that Kenney made early iu her career as part of a tap dance instruction recording. Labeled on the original 78 rpm as "Gay Chicks," the song is in fact a pop tune based on an old African-American saying, "A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But a Bird."
--- Bill Reed

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