Kay Little

Philadelphia native and vocalist Kay Little jumped around between a number of bands in the early 1940s. She originally used the stage name Daisy May but later shortened it to simply May. It became Kay after an electrician put up the wrong letter on a marquee. Little got her big break in October 1940 with Tony Pastor’s orchestra, where aside from handling female vocal duties she also sang as part of a quartet variously called Three Lads and a Lassie or Three Boys and a Girl.

Little left Pastor in January 1941 for Bobby Byrne’s band, where she replaced Dorothy Claire, who had skipped out on her contract to join Glenn Miller. Little stayed with Byrne until early March, when she fell ill during a performance and had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Back on her feet in April, she auditioned for Muggsy Spanier’s new band but didn’t win the job. She instead ended up with Dick Stabile’s orchestra, remaining until June when she married Bunny Berigan vocalist Danny Richards. She then perhaps sang briefly with Berigan’s band before Berigan quit that summer and turned the group over to Pee Wee Erwin.[1]

In August 1941, Little sang with Van Alexander for a summer engagement at Owasco Lake, New York. In December, both she and Richards joined Berigan’s new band, where they stayed through at least May 1942 and perhaps were with the band when Berigan passed away on June 2. Little next turns up in April 1944, when she joined Georgie Auld’s orchestra. She remained with Auld through at least November and probably into early 1945. She then disappears again until 1948. She reportedly sang with Harry James at some point before August 1948. The most likely time period would have been between April and July 1947.

By August 1948, Little had returned to Philadelphia, where she was working local clubs with a unit called the Two Tones. At that time, she had been married and divorced twice. In November, she was partnered with Rita Donaghue, and in March 1949 she was working as part of the act Kay and Irene, with Irene Andrews. On August 11, 1950, Little rejoined Pastor’s band, where she remained through at least November. She then vanishes into the mists of history.


  1. A later source, in reporting that Little and Richards had joined Berigan in December 1941, noted that both singers were “back” with Berigan. ↩︎


  1. “Little Lass.” Down Beat 15 Jan. 1941: 24.
  2. “Kay Little With Bobby Byrne.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1941: 21.
  3. “Kay Little Loses 'Ix.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1941: 2.
  4. Kelling, Vesta. “Movies Claim Many Swing Band Canaries.” Hattiesburg American [Hattiesburg, Mississippi] 22 Mar. 1941: 3.
  5. “Spanier Hires Ben Goodman.” Down Beat 15 Apr. 1941: 3.
  6. “Vaudeville Reviews: Loew's State, New York.” Billboard 24 May 1941: 22.
  7. Kilgallen, Dorothy. “Tales from Times Square.” Lowell Sun and Citizen-Leader [Lowell, Massachusetts] 9 Jun. 1941: 2.
  8. Winchell, Walter. “On Broadway.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette [Cedar Rapids, Iowa] 12 Jun. 1941: 3.
  9. Treat, Ray. “Chapin with Alexander then Tommy Reynolds.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1941: 21.
  10. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 20 Dec. 1941: 11.
  11. “On the Records: Bunny Berigan.” Billboard 18 Aug. 1942: 20.
  12. “Georgie Auld Coming To Ritz Sunday.” The Brewster Standard 18 May 1944: 8.
  13. No Title. Down Beat 1 Apr. 1944: 13.
  14. “Record Reviews: Georgie Auld.” Billboard 31 Mar. 1945: 105.
  15. “Where Is?” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1945: 10.
  16. “Two Much.” Down Beat 25 Aug. 1948: 1.
  17. “In Short.” Billboard 20 Nov. 1948: 48.
  18. Advertisement. “Sophia and Ed's Maltone Melody Lounge.” Chester Times [Chester, Pennsylvania] 15 Mar. 1949: 17.
  19. “Sidemen Switches.” Down Beat 11 Aug. 1950: 7.
  20. Cohn, Jay. “Carefree Prom Weekend Tops Fall Social Calendar.” Concordiensis [Schenectady, New York] 3 Nov. 1950: 1.