About Kathy

Tuesday 12 December 2017 at 04:38 am.

Kathy Kirby was born in Ilford, Essex, England on October 20th. 1940 and won her first talent contest at the age of three. She was a leading light in the school choir, and was destined for a career in opera. At the age of 12 she decided she wanted to become a professional singer, however it was her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe as much as her supple soprano voice that led to her recruitment as featured singer with the highly respected Bert Ambrose and his orchestra. That ambition was realised at the age of 16 when Kathy started singing with the top bandleader after meeting him at the Ilford Palais.

Kathy remained with Ambrose's band for three years,and although he remained her mentor, Kathy sang with other big bands before striking out on her own via cabaret residences in Madrid and London. Then the bandleader continued to guide the young singer in a management capacity. It was a business relationship that was to continue through to his death in 1971.

It was only in 1963 when the blonde, moist-lipped appeal was transferred to television that Kathy sprung to national prominence in England thanks to a residency as a singer, on the British TV series, 'Stars & Garters' based in a traditional British pub setting. She also signed to Decca records and had several hit singles, scoring her first Top 20 smash hit with Dance On, a chart topper by the British Group, The Shadows from earlier that year. Kathy's version also topped the single charts in Australia. An attempt to create similar waves by adding lyrics to another instrumental, this time the version by the Spotniks of the traditional 'Hava Nagila' was less of a success, despite being given a similar Kirby treatment. It was the Doris Day song, 'Secret Love' from Calamity Jane that took Kathy to the UK Top 5 (and reached similar heights in Australia) and the year ended with her winning the title of Top British Female Singer in the 'New Musical Express'

The hits kept coming with her UK Top 10 cover version of Teresa Brewer's ' Let me go lover'.(which also became a minor hit in Australia) 'You're the One' and 1965's British Eurovision Song Contest entry, 'I Belong', plus a climb high up the album charts in 1964 with '16 hits from Stars & Garters'.

Kathy became one of the biggest stars of the mid-sixties, especially after her triumphant billing in 1965's Royal Command Variety Performance and two series of her own BBC TV show 'Kathy Kirby Sings' . She toured and appeared on subsequent Royal Variety Shows, starred at the London Palladium and represented Britain in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest with the song 'I Belong' which came second.

1965 also became the year when the 'British Songstress' as she was described, found her name in the US charts with 'The Way of Love', a song which attracted little attention in a Britain dominated by Merseybeat.

A golden future for Kathy as a film star was predicted, but got no further than talk before Ambrose died in 1971, and the begining of his protogee's 'wilderness years'.

In 1967 Kathy left Decca Records and signed with EMI's Columbia label and between then and 1973, she recorded 12 singles and an album, 'My thanks to you'. Although none of them were hits, they proved that she was still in great voice and an enduring talent, although unfortunately personal problems had begun to dog the life of Kathy, including the death of Ambrose and later in the seventies, bankruptcy.

During the late seventies, Kathy virtually retired from show business but during the eighties she returned with the occasional recording and made several television appearances. Yet Ambrose's belief in Kathy's talent was to be vindicated when the tide turned, albeit with majestic slowness, after she resurfaced as a substantial star of the nostalgia circuit. "I am not going to write off my career" she had promised as her revival got under way. "The stage is in my bloodstream. If I am no longer the Golden Girl of Pop, I still have one asset left, my voice"

In recent years, she has lived quietly at her home in Kensington, West London. Her absence from the recording scene is a major source of regret, for Kathy possessed one of the finest female singing voices on the British side of the Atlantic.

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