- WHEN THE MOON COMES OVER THE MOUTAIN (1931)
- ONE SWEET LETTER FROM YOU (1927)
- MAYBE, WHO KNOWS? (1929)
- MOANINí LOW (1929)
- WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD (1929)
- I DONíT MIND WALKING IN THE RAIN (1930)
- I DONíT KNOW WHY Ė I JUST DO (1931)
- I GOT RHYTHM (1930)
- TOO LATE (1931)
- RIVER, STAY ĎWAY FROM MY DOOR (1931)
- MOON SONG (1933)
- THE CONTINENTAL (1934)
- STAY AS SWEET AS YOU ARE (1934)
- BEI MIR BIST DU SCHOEN (1937)
- WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR (1940)
- IMAGINATION (1940)
- CANíT GET INDIANA OFF MY MIND (1940)
- ALONG THE SANTA FE TRAIL (1940)
- THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS (1940)
- TIME WAS (1941)
- ROSE OíDAY (1941)
- THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER (1941)
- DONíT FENCE ME IN (1944)
- FEUDINí ANí FIGHTINí (1947)
- GOD BLESS AMERICA (1939)
Her name was Kate Smith and she was born in 1907 Kathryn
Elizabeth. From an early age she showed a liking for dancing and singing
and, gifted with a strong soprano voice, sang in Church choirs and took
part in local theatres and night spots. She was big and beautiful and
steadily worked her way up until she was accepted on the vaudeville
circuit in New York. It hadnít been easy, but eventually she succeeded.
In 1926 came her first break on Broadway in a show called "Honeymoon
Lane" with Kate making her mark as "Tiny Little", (not
very appropriate for this large lady). She was lucky to find a reliable
promoter who eventually became her partner in Columbia Records and his
name was Ted Collins who remained with her until his death. She soon
became one of the most listened to singers on American Radio particularly
during the depression and the years following Americaís entry into World
War 2. Her cheerful, morale-inspiring voice could often be heard over
the airways with her catch phrase "Hello everybody, this is Kate
Smith speaking!" and always "Thanks for listínin!" Phrases
that were to become regular sayings and by all accounts still are, just
like her hit song "Good bless America", a real American anthem.
She soon became called "The Song bird of the South" and an
American institution. She appeared in many Broadway shows with stars
of her day and must have been a very versatile lady. She also presented
the enormously popular "Kate Smith Hourí", together with a
midday news and commentary ("Kate Smith Speaks"). There really
seems no end to Kate Smithsí accomplishments.
I was very anxious to hear her sing as I have no great
recollection of hearing her name in 1927 when she first recorded a song
in New York for Columbia with the Charleston Chasers, "One Sweet
Letter From You." The accompanists play a long introduction before
Kate sings and my first impression was good. Even then she had a clear,
strong voice and every word can be heard. She is singing about the man
she loved, and wondering where he was and what he was doing. Just an
ordinary song but sang with vigour. The Charleston Chasers are excellent
It was July 1929 before Kate recorded "Maybe,
Who Knows" with Ben Selvin and the Harmonians. I like this song
though I did think it was rather wordy for its own good, but Kate sings
every word clearly and tunefully in that strong soprano voice. In August
of that year she also recorded two more songs with Ben Selvin and the
Harmonians. First is "Moaniní Low", not a song I liked and
as the recording develops Kateís voice switches to a shriller note and
in doing so the words were not clear. The next song is by Irving Berlin.
I expected a good one and wasnít disappointed as itís "Waiting
At The End Of The Road" and Kate sings it well, although again
she does so in that same shrill quality that up to now dominates her
songs and which I cannot quite warm to. In spite of this itís strong
and amazingly clear.
Kate recorded "I Donít Mind Walking In The Rain"
in July 1930, again with Ben Selvin and the Harmonians. This is a simple,
pleasant little number, which in fact all Kate songs have been up to
now but they are numbers that can be listened to without having to spare
much thought. You can listen as you go about and perhaps hum along with
them. Then in the November she recorded Gershwinís "I Got Rhythm"
with Ben Selvin again and this is a different matter. This needs to
be sung in a bubbly, energetic way and Kate Smith does all that, and
more. Considering she was big and beautiful she could certainly sing
as if she was really swaying to the rhythm. Itís a song with great many
words but Kate sang them all clearly and I am sure you will like this
It wasnít until August of the following year that Kate
recorded again, but she had been busy doing many other things, one of
which was her work with CBS radio. However she did record what to me
is a lovely song in August 1931, "When The Moon Comes Over The
Mountain", one I knew at the time and one that has been played
occasionally over the years. I can remember it round about that time
because I was a romantic at that age and it brings back memories. Kate
sings this with great feeling, and you hear every word. When she pauses
the orchestra plays on with the wistful, plaintive theme until Kate
resumes. Following this, she recorded, once again with Ben Selvin and
his orchestra, "I donít know why Ė I just do". The arrangement
is perfect and I like how Kate sings, talks and hums as she goes along.
She does it all so well and together with the orchestra makes this a
real find. In December came "Too Late" this time with Guy
Lombardo and his Royal Canadians who play a long introduction, so long
I even wondered if this might be an instrumental only. It reminded me
of those days of long ago when it was how the band would play at a ball
for a waltz. It is slow and languid, just the right tempo for a waltz,
and when Kate comes in she sings in a low, crooning voice matching the
slow pace of the music. That same month with Guy Lombardo she also made
"River, Stay `Way From My Door". Here again the Orchestra
plays a long introduction before Kate starts to sing, and when she does
itís in a slightly drawling manner, but I donít dislike it.
In 1932 she had a cameo role in Paramountís `The Big
Broadcastí, a revue style musical featuring stars of radio and screen.
She was still performing on her radio show, and taking parts in many
other shows, but in February 1933 she recorded "Moon Song"
with Victor Young and his Orchestra. Kate sings this simple love song
as it was meant, though I canít say I was particularly impressed, though
itís pleasant enough. It wasnít until the following year in October
of 1934 that she recorded the next song, "The Continental"
with KS with the Ambassadors Trio and her Swanee Music. I have heard
this so many times as Astaire and Rogers sang and danced it in one their
films but I have never heard this arrangement before. I had to listen
several times before I could decide if I liked it and at first I was
losing track of what they were all singing about. I suppose it was because
I have always imagined the song as a much slower number. Kate sings
it with the backing of the chorusís "dah-dah-dahs" and I began
to like it and hum along. I soon realised this was a special arrangement
for the record, not meant for dancing to. In the November Kate gives
us "Stay As Sweet As You Are", again with the Ambassadors
Trio and Her Swanee Music. This is one of my many favourites and Kate
sings it straight and slow in her strong voice with every word clear.
She even appears by now to have lost that shrillness dominated in her
By now Kate, alongside Ted Collins, was presenting
the popular "Kate Smith Hour" on radio and a favourite midday
news and commentary "Kate Smith Speaks". So it wasnít until
December 1937 that we have "Bei Mir Du Schoen" with Jack Miller
and his orchestra. Another of my favourites I have heard many times,
not so often now itís true, but its not a song I have forgotten. Kate
sings it at a good pace but does end up rather shrilly, I thought, although
it didnít spoil it.
Kate recorded quite a few songs in 1940, as if to make
up for not doing so between 1934 and 1940. It was understandable when
you read of all she had managed in her busy schedule. In March 1940
we have "Imagination" with Jack Miller and his orchestra.
A tuneful melody with a lovely theme and Kate delivers it well. Itís
not a song that belongs to this generation, but its so pleasant it can
still be enjoyed, I think. There is also the fine "Canít Get Indiana
Off My Mind", a pleasant enough song and then "Along the Santa
Fe Trail" with Jack Miller and his orchestra. I thought this recording
belonged to the band. I liked the melody and how the music played at
just the right pace. Kate appeared to revert back to singing too shrill
but as she only comes in for a short while it hardly matters.
When I saw the next recording was "The Last Time
I Saw Paris", my mind wandered back over the years to when I first
heard it. Then Yvonne Arnaud sang it and it is her version that imprinted
on me. Kate sings with feeling and I was delighted to hear this again.
Jack Millerís band, ably supporting Kate, strikes a plaintive note.
You will like this version, I certainly did. I wasnít impressed with
her next recording, however. This is "Time Was" recorded in
June 1941 again with Jack Miller.
How I love the next song from October 1941, "Rose
OíDay". As the title suggests itís an Irish number and one of Kateís
commercial hits. I think she sings this just as it should be with feeling
and humour and, as usual, Jack Miller and his orchestra accompanies
brilliantly. The same applies to the next recording in the same month.
This is none other than "The White Cliffs of Dover". Here
again my memory takes me back to those grim days when this wartime morale-booster
was being sung here by our own Vera Lynn. However it must not be forgotten
that that the American composer who wrote it, Walter Kent, never saw
England until the 1980ís. It was a great commercial hit for Kate and
she sings it beautifully and enunciates every word clearly with the
right amount of pathos.
After the war Kate continued to broadcast on radio,
record for Columbia until 1946 and then for MGM. By 1950 she had broadened
her horizon into TV with an NBC weekday afternoon variety show called,
not surprisingly, "The Kate Smith Hour" which ran uninterrupted
until 1954 and led to a prime-time Wednesday evening spot. However before
she left Columbia she recorded "Donít Fence Me In" in November
1944 with Jack Miller, Four Chicks and Chuck. Kate sings this with just
the right amount of up-tempo and keeps her voice on a level that is
just about right. I liked how The Four Chicks and Chuck came in towards
the end of the song also. Itís a naturally catchy number and Kate does
it well. It wasnít until 1947 she recorded "Feudiní aní Fightiní".
I didnít much care for this, although Kate sings with her usual vigour.
I have left one recording to the last. It was in 1939
that she aired the "alternative national anthem" "God
Bless America", a song written by Irving Berlin who regarded it
as his most important composition. Itís interesting to note that Berlin
wrote this for his 1918 musical "Yip,Yip,Yaphank" but it was
really unknown until he resurrected it for Kate who predicted in 1938
that it would be sung after all of us are gone. She was always ready
to offer her services during the war and raised a lot of money for the
GIs and listening to this track you can hear why.
This is an enjoyable CD and I do recommend it to those
who remember Kate Smith, the "American Song Bird" who with
her tremendous vitality brought so much pleasure to many people. People
who donít know her might find her style a little wearing. I confess
I did. She sang and entertained people from an early age until at the
aged of 79 she died in North Carolina 1986.
So another fine release for Living Era who have again
transferred from 78s accurately and with great style.
see also entry in MusicWeb
Encyclopaedia of Popular Music