Kay Foster

Vocalist Kay Foster had only a brief band career but played an important role in the history of the swing era. Foster was singing on Detroit radio in November 1939 when Benny Goodman selected her to temporarily replace Louise Tobin on the stage.[1] Goodman had already signed noted jazz singer Mildred Bailey for his radio program and for studio work. Goodman had hoped that Bailey would become the band’s full-time singer, but health problems prevented her from appearing live and touring. Foster, who was said to have sounded just like Bailey, was reported to be 18 years old at the time.

Foster likely would have ended up as Goodman’s permanent vocalist had Artie Shaw not quit the band business that same month. Shaw’s men, minus Tony Pastor, decided to carry on as a cooperative unit under saxophonist Georgie Auld, with Pastor forming his own orchestra. Goodman wanted Shaw’s singer, Helen Forrest, and he worked out a deal which sent Foster to Auld in exchange. Auld’s band quickly fizzled out, however, and dissolved in late February 1940. Foster then joined Pastor’s band in early March, where she stayed until mid-October.

In February 1942, Foster was part of the Sophisticats vocal group, which she may have left after marrying Tommy Dorsey trumpet player Charles Peterson that same month in Los Angeles. In September 1943, Foster recorded with Jan Garber’s orchestra and appeared with them in a musical short, probably as a substitute for Liz Tilton, the band’s regular vocalist at that time. She then disappeared. In June 1945, Down Beat magazine asked if anyone knew her whereabouts. They received no answer, and no further mentions of Foster appear in the public record.


  1. Tobin had left the orchestra due to illness. ↩︎


  1. “Stop Press!” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1939: 6.
  2. Sher, Jack. “New York Reporter.” Screen & Radio Weekly 26 Nov. 1939: 2.
  3. Feather, Leonard. “BG Still Not Satisfied With His Band Boys.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1939: 20.
  4. “Shaw Retracts Duress Charges In Suit Brought by Oberstein.” Billboard 9 Dec. 1939: 11.
  5. “Palsinger Takes His Tenor to Auld Band.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1940: 19.
  6. “Auld Won't Quit; Men Walk Out.” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1940: 1.
  7. “Tony Pastor Grabs Blonde Kay Foster.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1940: 1.
  8. Schurrer, Lou. “Glenn Miller Hits Detroit 11 Year High.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1942: 5.
  9. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1942: 10.
  10. Patterson, Pat. “On The Beam.” Mason City Globe-Gazette [Mason City, Iowa] 30 Sep. 1943: 2.
  11. “Where Is?” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1945: 10.