The Early Years

During the band’s first year in existence there were many female vocalists who stood in front of the fledgling unit. They came and went, overlapping one another, lasting months, weeks, or mere days. The list of names can never be definitive. It is said that even Kenton’s wife Violet sang with the band on several jobs. The dates are unclear three quarters of a century later, and none of the participants are around to clear matters up

Clessa Burke

2-4 May 1941
“Voluptuous blonde songstress.”

Gail Sherwood

Sherwood began 6 June 1941 for about a week.

“I only worked the first week when they debuted at the Rendezvous Ballroom. I had to get back to Hollywood, as I already had a regular afternoon radio show over CBS. Since my parents and brother, Bobby, were still in show business, I was trying to avoid the name Sherwood. I used Gail Bradley as my professional name when I worked with Stan” —Gail Sherwood*

“My mother, singer Gail Sherwood, had her own radio program in Hollywood in the 1940s. Stan Kenton was her accompanist on the piano in that show. A little while later Kenton started his first band and she was the first singer.” —Carl Saunders*

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Kay Gregory

“first singer” —Bob Gioga*
“the band’s first regular vocalist” —Howard Rumsey*

“Kay Gregory sat on that stand every night, and all she got to sing was 'Hawaiian War Chant.”—Howard Rumsey

“Kay’s background has been chiefly with show bands and in radio, and she adds the force of a practiced visual personality to the band. In addition, she has the facility of singing in several languages, including Hawaiian, which is an especially good attraction on the west coast.” —Metronome, August 1941

“Stan Kenton Band at Palladium after November 25, postponing its New York opening at the Famous Door until January 1. The band goes into the mammoth spot for five weeks, closing on December 28 and flying east to make the Door date. Kay Gregory, convalescing girl singer with the Kenton Krew, rejoins same for the Palladium engagement.” —Metronome, December 1941

I Know Why (arr. Stan Kenton)
5 December 1941

Terry Harlyn

At least 16-23 August 1941

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Helen Huntley

aka Helen Grayco, Greco

January – February 1942

“Only lasted with the band a month. They wouldn’t let her on the air in New York” —Bob Gioga*

“Helen Huntley, an attractive kid. Takes care or the jive vocals. making various cute faces which fail to compensate for her lack of voice.” —D. Carter, Billboard, 14 February 1942.

This Love of Mine (arr. Joe Rizzo)
5 January 1942

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Watch Helen Huntley sing with the band in this rare 1942 short film.

Eve Knight

Knight joined the band in March 1942, and was replaced by Dolly Mitchell in September.

“In back of singer Eve Knight and Red Dorris, there seemed to be a certain uneasiness, possibly caused by the not exceptional singing itself. But the two vocalists got over to the audience on good stage presence alone. And that helped maintain the very high standard set by the instrumentalists in their work.” —Barry Ulanov, Metronome, April 1942.

“EVE KNIGHT, who suffered a breakdown while canarying with STAN KENTON, is recovering at her home in Philadelphia and is expected to be singing again in within a month.” —Billboard, 9 January 1943.

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* quoted in The Kenton Kronicles by Steven D. Harris