Big Band Vocalist Kitty Kallen Dies at 94

Sang with Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw

Kitty Kallen
Kitty Kallen

Kitty Kallen, a big band singer who fronted the orchestras of Artie Shaw, Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden, and enjoyed several hit recordings under her own name, died Jan. 7 at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She was 94; the cause of death was not reported.

Born Katie Kallen on May 25, 1921, in Philadelphia, the singer is best known for her 1954 solo hit “Little Things Mean a Lot,” which spent nine weeks at the number one spot on the U.S. charts. That same year, she was named “Most Popular Singer” in both Billboard and Variety.

Kallen began singing as a child and appeared on radio programs in her teens. She joined the big band of Jan Savitt in 1936, then went with Artie Shaw in 1938, Jack Teagarden in 1940 and Jimmy Dorsey in 1942, singing on the band’s 1944 number one rendition of “Besame Mucho,” a duet with Bob Eberly. A successful stint with Harry James also took place during the World War II era, with Kallen singing on several top 10 hits.

Unlike many other big band singers of the era, Kallen continued to perform and record into the 1960s, her final chart single taking place in 1963.

Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.