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This is the area where we would like to post your Kathy Kirby stories. Maybe you met Kathy or remeber a concert. We would love to hear from you. Send your stories to james@kathykirby.me.uk


Some Interesting Facts About Kathy Kirby

One of Kathy's very favourite recordings of her own is "If He Walked into My Life" from the Broadway musical Mame.  Sadly it remains gathering dust in the recording vaults.  Another track Kathy recorded was a novelty version of "I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do" in which she sang each  line of the song back to front! So the opening line becomes "Do I Like You Love I Why Know Don't I" !!!

At an all star charity gala in Copenhagen in the seventies, Kathy closed her spot with her emotive version of "My Way". The Danish fans went wild and just would not let her leave the stage.  Miss Eartha Kitt was next on the bill, and was becoming impatient waiting in the wings for Kathy to finally leave the stage.  As Kathy has said when she finally left the stage and passed Miss Kitt in the wings, nothing was said between the two stars, however the look on the American star's face said it all - if looks could kill........

At the end of the summer season at the ABC Theatre in Blackpool, the promoters begged Kathy to do a further four weeks run - such was the demand for tickets. Leslie Grade told Kathy that if she would do another month with the show, he would buy her anything she wanted.  Kathy agreed to the extended run and opted for the most expensive mink coat she could find!

During the run of the Blackpool 1971 season, with no backstage bar, the cast and crew would relax in the front of house bar while Kathy did her top of the bill spot in the show.

Their cue to make their way backstage was Kathy's last but one song before closing with "My Thanks to You", by which time they would be in their finale places ready for the  walk down.  Mischievously Kathy would often change the last but one song, and during the opening of "My Thanks to You" cast and crew would be caught off guard and running backstage in order to take their places!

When Kathy and Ambrose flew over the America to record "The Ed Sullivan Show", they had a major row on the aeroplane over which number Kathy should sing. Ambrose wanted her to perform "Secret Love" and Kathy wanted to sing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from "Showboat"  Kathy won the argument.  She recently obtained a video recording of her stunning performance too.
On the 1967 United Kingdom tour with Tom Jones, Kathy's contract stated that she got 50-50 billing with the Welsh singer.  Arriving at the ABC Theatre in Edinburgh she saw outside the building her name was dwarfed by Tom's.  Even the "Ted Heath Orchestra" had bigger billing. Needless to say workmen were soon dispatched to the outside of the theatre to put her name alongside Tom's in the same size of letters.

The recent Piaf film biography "La Vie En Rose" which Kathy loved also made her cry.

Her favourite singers remain Judy Garland, Doris Day, and Dean Martin but also has a high regard for Michael Buble, Will Young and Jamie Cullum.

Kathy doesn't watch much television unless there is an old Hollywood movie on starring the likes of Doris Day or Lana Turner; preferring to listen to the radio.  She is always tuned into BBC Radio Two. She even listens to the Eurovision Song Contest on the radio saying it should be the song that counts and not all the visual gimmicks that are seen today.

In the late sixties, Kathy had arranged to meet Ambrose in London's West End. She eventually tracked him down at an upmarket Casino.  Arriving at the entrance, she informed reception to tell Bert she was here.  The management invited her in with the words "Come in Miss Kirby, you might as well have a look around, this place was built with all of your money Ambrose lost at our other casinos!"  Ambrose had always been a legendary gambler.

Recently the Daily Mail ran a piece on the lovely Anita Harris' life and career.  In the article it mentioned that she and her husband had lost a million pounds (their entire life savings) when a Swiss bank collapsed, and its directors were arrested after being investigated by the fraud squad.

A friend showed Kathy the article. "Darling Anita, only a million pounds" said Kathy, "Ambrose gambled away over five million of mine!"

Kathy has often said "Someone to Watch Over Me" is her favourite song.

At the height of her career in the sixites, Kathy was paying nineteen shilling and sixpence tax in every pound she earnt!

Only last year a major promotor wanted Kathy to appear in concert at a major venue in Blackpool and then to bring it into London for an evening at the London Palladium.  He was convinced she would sell out in both places.

Kathy Kirby in Barbados

An informal shot of Kathy in Barbados with two admirers at Christmas

Kathy Kirby Beach

 

Kathy loved the recent BBC television series "I'd Do Anything" in which a new "Nancy" was selected to appear in the forthcoming West End revival of the Lionel Bart musical.  The trouble was she changed her mind each week who she wanted to win the contest!

Kathy's version of the song from the show "As Long As He Needs Me" recorded from her live BBC Television series is amazing.

Kathy was recording her album "My Thanks To You" at the EMI Studios. She asked her recording manager Peter Sullivan for a break as she had developed a dry throat. Going in search of a bottle of water she popped into an adjoining studio.  There she discovered The Beatles dressed at the height of their "flower power" era.  "Hi Kathy" John Lennon shouted out, begging a bottle of water Kathy smiled and left the Fab Four to carry on with their recording. How incongruous she felt standing there dressed in a very conservative two piece outfit compared the the Hippy style John, Paul, George and Ringo were all sporting.

Here are just a few of Kathy's recordings, that have never been released and are now gathering dust in the Decca archive:
 
Till Tomorrow.
When You Hold Me Tight.
Who Knows.
No Other Love.
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
Now I Know.
I Won't Be Home No More.
One Golden Day.
Stranger in Paradise.
Every Day Of My Life.
It Burns My Heart Out.
Is It Love
A Change Of Heart.
The 32nd May.

Before Kathy became a star she toured a variety show with the singer Frankie Vaughan topping the bill.  She has always said he was one of the nicest, warm and generous artistes she has ever worked with. Never the star he was just like a big brother to her, looking after her on the road.  She was deeply upset when Frankie died in 1999.

Kathy Kirby Frankie Vaughan

Kathy with Frankie Vaughan at the Variety Club Luncheon at the Cafe Royal 1975

Because of Kathy's BBC television commitments, Kathy was not free to star in her own summer season stage show,  so accepted billing as "Special Guest Star" for the first six weeks of the run of "The Russ Conway Show" at the Winter Gardens Theatre in Bournemouth in 1965.  Dusty Springfield was engaged for the following six weeks of the season with the star soprano Adele Leigh completing the season.Ticket sales fell drastically after Kathy departed and the management begged Kathy to come back to complete the season in place of Miss Leigh. Unfortunately she was not free to do so.

Winter Gardens Theatre Bournemouth

Kathy Kirby by the pool

When Kathy was riding high in the charts with "Secret Love" she was invited to open a major new Mecca bingo hall in Birmingham.  Ambrose didn't fancy the trip from London and film star Oliver Reed volunteered to escort Kathy to the event. Oliver was already then a veteran of a couple of dozen movies.
 

Kathy was very upset to learn of the sudden death of Sir Bill Cotton.  Sir Bill was Assistant Head of BBC Television Light Entertainment at the time she was recording her television shows at Shepherds Bush Studios.  During the live broadcast of the last show of her current series, Bill was watching Kathy perform from the wings.  A cameraman quietly approached him and remarked how sad it was that Kathy was appearing in her last BBC show as she was defecting to the ITV channel.  Bill had not been informed of this and totally shocked, tears welled up in his eyes.  So upset was he by the news.  R.I.P Sir Bill Cotton (23rd April 1928 - 11th August 2008)

left to right Ernest Maxin, Kathy, Bill Cotton and Tom Sloane

Kathy today: An awful lot of rubbish has been written on other sites about Kathy being gullible and open to being "controlled" by those closest to her.  These generalisations are always written by people who have never, ever met her.  Anyone close to Kathy will tell you her favourite phrase is "No-one tells Kathy Kirby what to do!"  And it is true. Friends can only advise.  She takes the advice on board and always thinks carefully about what has been said to her, but in the end she makes up her own mind.  The response is always "Yes, I agree what you suggested" or "No, I don't agree, my original gut feeling was the correct one"
Once a Diva, always a Diva.

Winter Gardens Margate - Kathy played the most successful summer season ever at the theatre.  Each weekend when new holiday makers arrived in town, crowds could be seen queueing at the box office for tickets, with the line of tourists extending virtually around the building waiting to get their seats booked.

Kathy's favourite two guest stars on her television spectaculars were the American singing star (and still going strong) Buddy Greco and the legendary star of British movie musicals Miss Jessie Matthews

From Ernest Maxin: (Kathy's legendary television director of her BBC Shows.)  Ernest, a BAFTA award winner, is a giant in British Light Entertainment.  He has directed everyone from Marlene Dietrich to Morecambe and Wise. Frequently stating Kathy's shows were the highlights of his career, and the programmes he was most proud of, he told this site:

"I saw Kathy singing on "Stars and Garters" and so impressed was I with her performances, I immediately rang Tom Sloane (the then Head of BBC Television Light Entertainment) and told him my thoughts.  Tom told me Kathy had already been mentioned to him by other colleagues.  He tuned in, saw her work, and very soon after Kathy signed her record breaking contract with the BBC for "The Kathy Kirby Show" series".

John (Kathy's "rock") went out recently for a meal and a drink with close friends, a married couple, in London's The Strand. After the meal, the husband and wife suggested a drink in their local pub to finish the evening.  John and the couple got into conversation with the landlord of the pub and were discussing various artistes in show business.  The wife mentioned to the landlord:  "Well you will never guess who John loves and indeed knows?".
Asking who, the wife replied "Kathy Kirby".  The landlord was stunned (his face was a picture apparently) and finally stuttered: "I just adore Kathy Kirby!"

John offered to get him a signed photograph - and soon after a complimentary tray of drinks - totally on the house - arrived.  The married couple observed that it was the first time in all the years they had frequently the pub that this had happened!

So Kathy after all these years your name still carries some magic.  Nice one!

If you are visiting London check out the Blue Plaque commissioned by English Heritage in memory of Bert Ambrose.  The plaque is outside The Mayfair Hotel, Stratton Street W1.
Ambrose lived and played with his orchestra there for much of the period from 1927 to 1940.

Blackpool Winter Gardens

Blackpool: For the summer season 1967 Kathy was offered the choice of co-starring with Bruce Forsyth at the nearby Opera House in "The Big Show of 1967" or topping the bill in her own stage show at the lovely Winter Gardens Theatre.  She chose the later.  Millicent Martin co-starred with Forsyth and while Kathy had a sell out season, interestingly enough the Opera House production was not the success hoped for.

 

Theatre Royale Brighton

Brighton:  Kathy's summer season of 1970.  It was during the run of this show that Kathy was told by her fortune teller  Eva Petulengro that Ambrose would be dead within twelve months.  He died in June of the following year.

Kathy's place in the entertainment world was really crowned the first time she was asked to top the bill on the weekly variety show "Sunday Night at the London Palladium"  It was to be the first of numerous appearances for her on this famous show.

ATV

 

Sunday Night at the London Palladium

The British postal vote for the six songs Kathy sung on her television show produced the following result:
In third place "My Only Love" with 61.993 votes.
In second place "I'll Try Not to Cry" with 98.252 votes
and the winning song "I Belong" scored 110.945  votes
Kathy had privately hoped that "I'll Try Not to Cry" would be the song selected for the United Kingdom 1965 entry.


The Festival Hall Theatre opened in June 1967 and it's first two summer season productions were stage shows of the then hugely successful "Black and White Minstrel Show" based on the long running BBC television series. Kathy was the first major solo star to appear top billed in the lavish production "Up and Away", for the 1969 season. It was a sell out season at the 1200 seater venue. Future summer seasons would star the likes of Larry Grayson and Leslie Crowther. Sadly with the general decline of the UK summer seasons around the Country, the theatre closed it's doors for the last time in 1999 and was converted into a nine screen cinema.

Festival Hall Theatre Paignton

 

South Pier Theatre Blackpool

During the '50s/'60s/'70s all three pier theatres would have major summer season productions that ran from the end of May right through to the switch off of the famous illuminations at the end of October.


The Golden Shot

The legendary comedian and king of the game shows, the late Bob Monkhouse adored Kathy.  It was at his suggestion that she was the chief guest star on the first of a new series of "The Golden Shot" in 1968. That first show, screened live on a Sunday afternoon, attracted over 16 million viewers and is chiefly remembered today for the technical nightmare that unfolded on screen.  Whatever could go wrong did go wrong: from contestants' telephone lines going down, to "Bernie The Bolt" failing to operate the crossbow correctly, to the hostess Anne Aston making a complete mess of adding up the scores! Having to repeat procedures, it looked like time was running out for Kathy to close the show singing "Come Back Here With My Heart"  It was only due to Bob's supreme professionalism that the show somehow got back on track and Kathy managed to appear at the end of the show to sing her then latest single - just!

The Royal Variety Performance

Held at the London Palladium on the 8th of November 1964 in the presence of H.M. The Queen, and introduced by David Jacobs, besides Kathy Kirby, the case list was:
The Bachelors, Cilla Black, Tommy Cooper, Gil Dova, Gracie Fields, Lena Horne, Brenda Lee, Millicent Martin, Morecambe and Wise, Bob Newhart, Ralph Reader's Gang Show, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Dennis Spicer, Jimmy Tarbuck and The Tiller Girls.

 

Jukebox Jury

Greatly popular in it's day (it was part of the sixties youth culture - a must see show), the show ran on BBC television Saturday evenings from 1959 to 1967 and introduced by David Jacobs. Each week a panel of four celebrities would listen to the latest pop single releases, and vote them a "hit" or a "miss". Kathy was never fond of the programme arguing "how can you judge an artiste's work on listening to just two or three minutes of audio air play"

Kathy made numerous appearances on this ground breaking pop show of the early sixties.It ran from August 1963 until December 1966. The rights to the programme now belong to Dave Clark of "Dave Clark Five" fame. Kathy has long wished to have copies of her appearances.  James did write to Dave Clark at his penthouse apartment in West London requesting the same, but never sadly received a reply.

Dee Time

Kathy had previously appeared several times on Simon Dee's Saturday evening music and chat show on BBC television, when in November 1967, a telephone call came through asking her to replace - at the last moment - the American singing star Miss Brenda Lee. Neither Simon or his producer Terry Henebery liked the song Brenda sang at the rehearsals - her new single "Where's The Melody?" - and asked her to sing something else.  She refused and quit the show.

Thank Your Lucky Stars

With most of the shows from this series (1961 to 1966) now lost: a rare copy of the show has surfaced in Australia with Kathy singing two songs from the 1964 season. The company are providing Kathy with a complimentary copy of the show.  Kathy can be seen on the cover of the official annual for the show in the top left hand corner next to Paul McCartney.

Grand Theatre Wolverhampton

In the Autumn of 1968 The Kathy Kirby Show "live on Stage" toured several major provincial theatres for week long engagements. The full supporting company was lead by the singer Solomon King then riding high in the charts with his hit record "She Wears My Ring". Before a capacity audience, on the opening night at The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, a young stage hand made the announcement to introduce Kathy:
"And now Ladies and Gentleman, it's time to introduce the star of our show.  Please welcome the lovely Miss Kathie Kay" Now we suspect MOST divas would have gone ballistic.  Kathy however thought it so funny she had to delay her entrance as she could not stop laughing! In 1968 Kathy was 30 years of age and Kathie Kay 50. Miss Kay achieved modest fame as one of the resident singers on the BBC television series "The Billy Cotton Bandshow"

From the Manchester Evening News November 1967
"Tom Jones's advisers decided to promote their own tour - it's on at the Odeon Manchester this Thursday - with just two major stars: Tom and someone he personally would choose. 'I chose Kathy Kirby' he said 'because she is  highly talented, an earthy, natural singer without gimmicks, and a very experienced theatre entertainer' "

The blog requesting fans to send in their three favourite Kathy Kirby songs is producing some diverse results. Admirers of Kathy might be interested to read the result of a similar poll Kathy's fan club ran in the Autumn of 1967. The combined vote was as follows:

3rd "Acapulco '22"
2nd "Turn Around" (Kathy's then current single release)
1st "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" A song Kathy never actually recorded!

The result was probably due to the fact that Kathy sang the '30s torch number twice nightly during her long Blackpool summer season of 1967.  Such was the impact during the show of her interpretation of the song - the wild applause seemed to go on forever - it obviously made an impact on all those who caught the live show.

"Top Of The Pops was first broadcast on BBC tv on New Years Day in 1964 from a converted church in Manchester.  The programme ran for an incrediable 42 years.
The top ten for the first programme included Kathy's "Secret Love".  Other records that made up the chart included:

"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" The Beatles.
"Glad All Over" Dave Clark Five.
"I Only Wanna Be With You" Dusty Springfield.
"24 Hours From Tulsa" Gene Pitney.
"Stay" The Hollies.
"She Loves You" The Beatles.
"You Were Made For Me" Freddie and the Dreamers.
"Hippy, Hippy Shake" The Swinging Blue Jeans
"Swingin' On A Star" Big Dee Irwin.

 

Currently playing at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in London is a new play with music written by and starring Ray Davies of The Kinks. "Come Dancing" is about a young girl singer who begins her career at the Ilford Palais in the late 1950's and eventually tops the bill at the London Palladium.  Ring any bells?  Another coincidence is the fact that the actress/singer playing the female lead role is a young lady called Gemma Salter.  Gemma in real life is Kathy's great half niece!  The play runs until the 25th October.

On her first PYE single (Love can be) - Kathy was backed by the Wally Stott Orchestra. Wally is now known as Angela Morley!

Lena Martell also recorded the song – but neither chanteuse had a hit with it.  

Kathy was appearing in Port Elizabeth , South Africa , in October 1966 when she heard  that Alma Cogan had died. The press reported ‘Singer Kathy Kirby burst into tears when she heard the news. She was too upset to speak’. Although Kathy didn’t know Alma well, apart from the exchanging of Christmas cards and occasionally meeting at a showbiz function, she was devastated that a great talent had died so young.

It used to be said that one could always remember where they were when they heard that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Kathy was dining at the Savoy Grill (22.11.63) when the news came through that JFK had died, which sent shockwaves through the restaurant.

Norman Hartnell, the royal couturier, also designed dresses for Kathy.

As a child, Kathy had a pet cat named Blackie. Two white and black poodles – Lulu and Gigi, were family pets. Kathy can be seen on the covers of I belong and I’ll try not to cry sheet music with the black one, Gigi.

Kathy was hugely popular in Australia – where she had the distinction of a number one hit record with Dance on.

Kathy has never visited Greece , but once, had to stop off en-route to another country at Athens Airport . It was here, in the Airport lounge that Kathy was confronted with a life size image of herself on a poster, advertising her latest record - proving that KK was popular there too!

Ambrose took Kathy to see the legendary Jewish singer Sophie Tucker in cabaret at London ’s Talk of the Town in 1962.

During her Blackpool season in 1964 with Frank Ifield, Kathy took up golf. She took lessons, as Kathy treated her new hobby very seriously!

Kathy was great friends with the late singer Marion Ryan, mother of Paul and Barry. Kathy often visited Marion for a girly chat over a Grenadine Cocktail. (Grenadine is non alcoholic syrup made from Pomegranates)

When Kathy became famous she took on Marion ’s Mayfair flat.

Kathy stepped in at a moments notice to replace Diana Dors, who was unwell, on the panel of Juke Box Jury on March 21st 1964.

The Stars and Garters Christmas show, which was screened on Christmas day 1963 was actually recorded during early November of that year.

Kathy never really wanted to record the English cover version of the Peggy Lee number one American Billboard hit "Is That All There Is?" In 1969 when both ladies recorded the song, Miss Lee was then 48 and Kathy just 31. Kathy always felt she was far to young to record the painful lyrics that expressed deep disillusions with life.

 

Even towards the end of her working life, the Kirby magic always worked on her audiences, this is what Lee Wilson wrote in The Mail on Sunday in 1983:

During Kathy last couple of years performing (unlike earlier in her career) she basically kept to a set repertoire of songs. These were, in order of performance:
"Without A Song"
"Maybe This Time"
"Sometimes I'm Happy" or depending on her mood "Havah Nagilah"
"My Yiddishe Momma"
"Dance On"
"Let Me Go Lover"
"Secret Love"
"Without You"
"New York, New York"
"He"
"My Way"
and finally, as always "My Thanks To You"

This interesting piece about Kathy is on spectropop.com
Of course Kathy Kirby's camp overload (her "personal problems"), looks (Monroesque), voice (Garland meets Connie Francis) and the now legendard lipgloss has it's counterpoint in her music: a schizoid mix of excellent great American Songbook LPs offset by some outrageous titshaker 45s. But the quality is there by the bucketload. Evidence for the defense: "Bigman" (An upbeat re-write of "Uptown" - yes, it's possible); those eight bar sustains on the bullfight epic "You're The One"; the insinuating horns which make "Love Me Baby" just as dirty as it should be; '50s schlock like "Secret Love" and "Let Me Go Lover" reinvented as pseudo-rock blasters; the haunting balladry of "Where in the World"; the throb power of "Dance On"; Snuff Garret's blueprint for Cher's chart topping "The Way of Love". Producer Charles Blackwell should've been given an OBE for this stuff!
Rick Hough.