Kitty Kallen (born Katie Kallen; May 25, 1921 – January 7, 2016) was an American popular singer whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1960s,to include the Swing era of the Big Band years, the post-WWII pop scene and the early years of rock 'n roll. Kallen performed with popular big band leaders of the 1940s, including Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James,[1] before establishing a solo career.

She is widely known for her 1954 solo recording '"Little Things Mean a Lot", a song that stayed at the U.S. number one spot for nine consecutive weeks, charted in the U.S. for almost seven months, hit #1 on the UK singles chart, and sold more than two million copies.[2]AllMusic called the recording a "monster hit",[3] and music historian Jonny Whiteside said the song "ably characterizes Kallen’s impressive, and graceful, transition from classic big band swing to modern post-war pop."[4]

Voted "most popular female singer" in 1954 in both Billboard and Variety polls,[5] Kallen lost her voice at the Palladium in 1955 at the top of her career[3][5] and left singing for four years,[3] suffering paralyzed vocal cords.[6] After testing her voice under a pseudonym in small town venues,[6] she ultimately returned and went on to achieve 13 top-ten career hits.

Kallen performed at numerous prominent live venues including Manhattan's Copacabana, Morris Levy's Versailles, the Capitol Theater, the Maisonette Room at the St. Regis,[7] the Cafe Rouge at the Hotel Pennsylvania and the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room. As well, she starred on Broadway in Finian's Rainbow; in the 1955 film The Second Greatest Sex[8] and on numerous television shows including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Big Beat with singer-host Richard Hayes,[9]American Bandstand, and Fred Allen's Judge for Yourself. In 1951, Kallen appeared with Buster Crabbe as the Queen and King of Winter at the Lake Placid resort.[10]

During the height of her popularity, three imposters billed themselves as Kitty Kallen. When one of them, Genevieve Agostinello, died in 1978, it was incorrectly reported that Kallen herself had died.[8][11] On February 8, 1960, Kallen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (located on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard at #7021).

Early life

Born Katie Kallen (her birth name has been at times erroneously reported as Katherine Kalinsky)[3][12] on May 25, 1921 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[3][13] she was one of seven children,[14] to Russian Jewish immigrants Samuel and Rose Kalinsky (later Kallen). As a child, she won an amateur contest by imitating popular singers. When she returned home with her prize, a camera, her father did not believe her, and punished her for stealing the camera. Only when neighbors subsequently visited to congratulate her did Kallen's father realize she had actually won it.[5]


As a young girl, she sang on The Children's Hour, a radio program sponsored by Horn & Hardart, an automat chain. As a preteen, Kallen had a radio program on Philadelphia's WCAU and sang with the big bands of Jan Savitt[13] in 1936, Artie Shaw in 1938,[15] and Jack Teagarden in 1940.

Shortly before her 21st birthday, on May 5, 1942, she sang the vocals for "Moonlight Becomes You", with Bobby Sherwood and His Orchestra at the second every session for what was then still called Liberty Records but would soon be renamed Capitol Records. It was her only session for the label.

At 21, she joined the Jimmy Dorsey band, replacing Helen O'Connell. In every theater of World War II, a favorite of American servicemen, "They're Either Too Young or Too Old".[clarification needed] In 1944, Kallen performed the vocals for Dorsey's number-one hit "Besame Mucho". Most of her singing assignments were in duets with Bob Eberly, and when Eberly left to go into the service toward the end of 1943, she joined Harry James's band.

Between January and November 1945, she had two songs recorded with the Harry James Orchestra in the top twenty, six in the top ten, and two at the #1 spot: "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "It's Been a Long, Long Time", which remains deeply associated with the end of World War II and the returning troops.

With the 1954 hit "Little Things Mean a Lot", she was voted the most popular female singer in Billboard and Variety polls. She followed up the song with "Chapel in the Moonlight", another million selling record,[2] and a version of "True Love" for Decca. In 1959, she recorded "If I Give My Heart to You" for Columbia Records, and in 1963, she recorded a top-selling version of "My Coloring Book" for RCA. Her final album was Quiet Nights, a bossa nova–flavored release for 20th Century Fox Records. Subsequently, she retired from a lung ailment.

A compilation of her hits on various labels remains available on the Sony CD set The Kitty Kallen Story.


While performing with Jack Teagarden's band, she married Clint Garvin, the band's clarinet player. When Teagarden fired Garvin, Kallen left as well, later annulling the marriage. In 1948, Kallen married Bernard "Budd" Granoff, a publicist, agent, and television producer.[16] He later became a pioneering television syndicator.[16] The couple, married for over forty-five years until Granoff's death in 1996, had a son, Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute and Adjunct Professor of International Law at Widener University School of Law.[16]

Later years

In 1977, Kallen sued her dermatologist, Norman Orentreich, after he prescribed an estrogen drug, Premarin, for her small facial wrinkles. She subsequently suffered blood clots in her lungs, caused directly by the drug, and was awarded $300,000 by a court.[17]

In 2008, Kallen joined artists Patti Page, Tony Martin, Dick Hyman, Richard Hayman and the estates of Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, Woody Herman, Les Brown, the Mills Brothers, Jerry Murad, Frankie Laine, and the gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a suit against the world's then largest music label,[18]Universal Music Group, alleging the company had cheated them on royalties.[19]

In 2009, Kallen was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

Kallen died on January 7, 2016 at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the age of 94.[20]

Hit recordings

Year Single Chart positions
U.S. U.S.
UK[21] Cash Box Music Vendor/Record World
1943 "They're Either Too Young or Too Old" (with Jimmy Dorsey) 2
"Star Eyes" (with Jimmy Dorsey & Bob Eberly) 3
1944 Bésame Mucho (with Jimmy Dorsey & Bob Eberly) 1
"When They Ask About You" (with Jimmy Dorsey) 4 10
1945 "I'm Beginning to See the Light" (with Harry James) 1
"I Don't Care Who Knows It" (with Harry James) 8
"Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" (with Harry James) 16
"Yah-Ta-Ta, Yah-Ta-Ta" (with Harry James) 11
"11:60 PM" (with Harry James) 8
"I'll Buy That Dream" (with Harry James) 2
"It's Been a Long, Long Time" (with Harry James) 1
"Waitin' for the Train to Come In" (with Harry James) 6
1946 "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" (with Artie Shaw) 22
1949 "Kiss Me Sweet" 30
1950 "Juke Box Annie" 17
"Our Lady of Fatima" (with Richard Hayes) 10
1951 "Aba Daba Honeymoon" (with Richard Hayes) 9
1953 "Are You Looking for a Sweetheart?" 27 38
1954 "Little Things Mean a Lot" 1 1 1 12
"In the Chapel in the Moonlight" 4 5 7
"Take Everything But You" 44 24
"I Want You All to Myself (Just You)" 23 24 22
"Don't Let the Kiddy Geddin" 31 26
1955 "I'd Never Forgive Myself" 32
"Honestly" 31 38
"Kitty Who?" 83
"Forgive Me" 41
"Just Between Friends" 75
"Sweet Kentucky Rose" 76 30 23
"How Lonely Can I Get?" 33
1956 "Go On with the Wedding" (with Georgie Shaw) 39 16 54
"Will I Always Be Your Sweetheart?" 74
"How About Me?" 72
1957 "Lasting Love" 39
"Crying Roses" 82
1958 "Love Is a Sacred Thing" 82
1959 "If I Give My Heart to You" 34 25 27
1960 "That Old Feeling" 100 87
"Need Me" 91
"Got a Date with an Angel" 111
1961 "Hey Good Lookin'" 117
"Summertime Lies" 118
1962 "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" 101 137
"My Coloring Book" 18 7 13 8
1963 "Please Don't" 121
"I'll Teach You How to Cry" 99


  1. ^ Bernstein, Adam (2016-01-07). "Kitty Kallen, silken-voiced pop singer of 'Little Things Mean a Lot,' dies at 94". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  2. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 69. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Kitty Kallen profile". AllMusic. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ Whiteside, Jonny (June 24, 2010). "Kitty Kallen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 7, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c "Kitty Kallen". Hollywood Walk of Fame. 
  6. ^ a b "Kitty Kallen Finds Herself and Voice". Milwaukee Sentinel. July 27, 1962. 
  7. ^ "Mr. Pop's Ultimate 1960 Timeline, February". Mr. 
  8. ^ a b "Kitty Kallen dead? No, Singer Reports". The Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. April 21, 1978. 
  9. ^ "Kitty Kallen Solo Star Now". The Pittsburg Press. November 6, 1949. 
  10. ^ "Placid's Royalty Named". The New York Times. December 20, 1951. Former Olympic champion Buster Crabbe and singer Kitty Kallen of Broadway will act as King and Queen of Winter at Lake Placid's twenty-sixth annual coronation ceremonies Dec. 29. Mr. Crabbe and Miss Kallen, who had the lead in Finian's Rainbow will succeed Faye Emerson and Skitch Henderson, last Winter's royal couple. The coronation traditionally opens the winter season at Lake Placid and includes an ice show and hockey game. 
  11. ^ "Kitty Kallen profile". Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  12. ^ Adam Burnstein (January 7, 2016). "Kitty Kallen, silken-voiced pop singer of 'Little Things Mean a Lot,' dies at 94". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ a b JC Marion (2002). "Kitty Kallen". Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  14. ^ "Father of Kitty Kallen dies". The New York Times. January 14, 1955. PHILADELPHIA Jan. 13 Samuel Kallen, father of Kitty Kallen, the singer, died last night at Einstein Hospital at-the age of 61. His widow, Rose, and six other children, survive. 
  15. ^ [1] Archived March 8, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ a b c Thomas, Robert McG., Jr. (May 1, 1996). "Budd Granoff Is Dead at 77; A Show-Business Innovator". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ "Notes on People". The New York Times. October 7, 1977. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  18. ^ "Music greats say Universal owes them". Los Angeles Times. February 16, 2008. 
  19. ^ EDIDIN, PETER (February 16, 2008). "Universal Royalty Suit". The New York Times. The estates of some of American music's biggest names, including Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Sarah Vaughan, have sued Universal Music Group for more than $6 million, claiming the company cheated them out of royalties, The Associated Press reported. The lawsuit, which was also filed on behalf of some living artists, asserts that the company withheld record royalties, engaged in self-serving schemes with record clubs and suppressed payments from Apple’s iTunes and other digital distributors. The court papers accuse Universal of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. The 14 plaintiffs are Patti Page, Tony Martin, Dick Hyman, Richard Hayman, Kitty Kallen and the estates of Basie, Goodman, Vaughan, Woody Herman, Les Brown, the Mills Brothers, Jerry Murad, Frankie Laine and the gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, says Universal has been using questionable accounting practices since at least 1998. “We believe that these claims are baseless, and we are confident that we will prevail in court,” said Peter Lofrumento, a spokesman for the Universal Music Group. 
  20. ^ "Kitty Kallen, Big Band Singer of 'Bésame Mucho,' Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  21. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 296. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.