July 7, 2021 Anita Kerr

The Nashville Sound in the 1950s-1960s quite often included harmony vocals by the Anita Kerr Singers or The Jordanaires. The Jordanaires are in the CMHOF, yet the Anita Kerr Singers rarely even draw any mention in modern discussions of CMHOF possibilities. Anita Kerr not only sang, but arranged and produced a wide variety of music.

Anita Kerr was born in 1927 in Memphis the daughter of Italian immigrants. Her mother had a Memphis radio show in the thirties to sing Italian music. The official Anita Kerr website has a lot more details about Anita Kerr’s biography. In 1948, Anita moved to Nashville and in 1950, the Anita Kerr Singers made their first recordings with Red Foley, and they worked with a great number of top country artists, as well as artists from other genres.

In 1965, after a divorce from Mr. Kerr, Anita left Nashville for Los Angeles, where she mostly branched out to other styles of music, and in 1970, she moved to Switzerland with her second husband, a Swiss native. She kept churning out music in the seventies and released a bit of music in the eighties, but she has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since.

In 2020, Barry Pugh wrote on the Burt Bacharach Discussion Forum Link that he had spent the last four years writing a book, “Anita Kerr – America’s First Lady of Music.” He gives a lot of details about the book, and Burt Bacharach (who is now 93) contributed the foreword. Mr. Pugh wrote in September 2020 that he had been in contact with Anita Kerr’s family and that Anita is in Switzerland and “continues to be in poor health.” That’s the most recent post or information I can find anywhere. I’m curious about the status of Mr. Pugh’s book.

Rather than digging through the entirety of Anita Kerr’s very extensive discography, I’ll point out just a few bits, rather than just the most familiar material:

In 1951, the Anita Kerr Singers backed Ernest Tubb on Hey La La. Ray Price was one of the songwriters.

The Anita Kerr Singers backed Rosetta Tharpe on some 1952 gospel songs.

In 1965, the Anita Kerr Singers recorded several songs in German, including Home On The Range.

Although Anita Kerr was mostly known for her Anita Kerr Singers, she did have some other projects.

Anita Kerr’s Little Dippers had a #9 pop hit with Forever in 1960. When Pete Drake covered “Forever” with his talking steel guitar, the Anita Kerr Singers sang harmonies.

In 1961-62, Anita and Th’ So-and-So’s recorded a few songs that were a bit more of a light rock and roll sound than Anita Kerr’s usual output.

In 1966-67, the Mexicali Singers released albums. The Mexicali Singers were Anita Kerr’s answer to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. This is is fun stuff. There are even some songs with wordless vocals reminiscent of groups like the Swe-Danes.

The San Sebastian Strings released several albums in the late sixties through the mid seventies.

Dottie Dillard, who passed away in 2015, was a member of the Anita Kerr Singers in the Nashville years. She also made solo recordings in the early fifties that are worth checking out. Here’s a link to an old discussion about her on the Jim Reeves fan forum. When Chet Atkins and Anita Kerr collaborated, was Anita actually doing the work and running the show, while Chet was playing golf and getting most of the credit ?

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