A while back I was listening to a song on an outstanding blog, Days Of Transition, and it got me to thinking — always a perilous undertaking, but one that I keep attempting in spite of the danger. Anyhow, the song — “We’ll Meet Again,” performed by British songbird Vera Lynn — was so perfectly evocative of the spirit often shown during World War II that it brought to mind one of the songs from a boxed set that I reviewed a little over two years ago.
That set — the soundtrack from the Ken Burns documentary, The War — contained many tracks that seemed to capture a similar mood, but the one I especially remembered was “Waiting For The Train To Come In,” performed by Harry James and his orchestra with a vocal by Kitty Kallen. Trumpeter James, the subject of an earlier post, was one of the biggest stars of the era and helped a lot of singers gain fame. One of the best was Kitty Kallen.
The Philadelphia-born singer got her start in radio as a child, and was still just a teenager when she began appearing in the pre-war years with a series of bands, including those of Jan Savitt, Artie Shaw, and Bobby Sherwood. She grew up fast, and even married one of the musicians, but it was later annulled.
As the war began she continued to build her career, eventually moving on to a spot with Jimmy Dorsey’s outfit. Her first real taste of fame came when she provided the vocal (along with crooner Bob Eberly) on Dorsey’s big #1 hit, “Besame Mucho,” but soon after she moved on to a job with Harry James. Along the way she married publicist Bud Granoff, a union that would last until his death forty-five years later.
During her time with the James’ band, she enjoyed some solid hits with songs like “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” and in the post-war years she began to build a solid solo career. Appearing often on radio and continuing to make records, by the early Fifties she’d struck gold with a couple of songs — “In The Chapel By The Moonlight” and “Little Things Mean A Lot,” which would become her signature song. (Video below.)
Her career continued to flourish and even expanded as she became a popular draw on many TV shows, but like many of her era who were faced with a fickle public’s changing tastes in popular music, her popularity eventually began to diminish. Even though she had a minor hit in the Sixties with “My Coloring Book,” Kitty Kallen eventually settled into retirement, although she did resurface briefly in the late Seventies when a Kitty Kallen impostor died.