Kyser, Kay [James King Kern ]
- Steven Beasley
[James King Kern ]
(b Rocky Mount, NC, June 18, 1905; d Chapel Hill, NC, July 23, 1985). American Bandleader, actor, humanitarian, and religious leader. Sometimes known as “The Ol’ Professor of Swing,” Kyser climbed to the heights of pop success from 1935 to 1950 with an orchestra that played novelty songs as well as swing and ballads. Though he couldn’t read music or play an instrument, he was a brilliant businessman and front man, chalking up 35 top ten records and 11 number ones.
Kyser attended and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill (business degree, 1928), where he produced plays, organized a band (1926), and began to use “Kay” (derived from his middle initial) as his stage name. They recorded six songs for the Victor label between 1928 and 1929, but didn’t record commercially again until 1935. They broke into the big time in Chicago in 1937 with a quiz and music radio show called ...