Note: I am privileged to share an article written by David Gasten of This Is Vintage Now who has been so gracious to let us post his article about Kathy Barr, a 50’s singer who is still remembered after more than fifty years.
Meet 1950’s Cheesecake Singer
by David Gasten
Here’s an intro to one of my favorite lady performers from the 1950’s, the sultry Kathy Barr. Kathy released three LP’s and one single over the course of her recording career, and Follow Me (1957) is her debut. Be forewarned, the Follow Me LP is a little over-the-top, but it’s a lot of fun, especially if you like curvy, feisty 50’s gals.
Kathy Barr was born in New York to Turkish parents, and was originally in light opera until some cats in the industry suggested that she try going in a pop direction, which resulted in this her debut LP. This album has been reissued on CD as a Japanese import, and the fine folks in Japan have done a good job of keeping it in print. She followed it up with an LP called Do It Again (Ava/MGM, 1964), which finally got a mini-LP slip sleeve reissue by the Spanish label LP Time Records in 2010.
1. Kathy Barr on “The Magic of Music” radio show (May 2, 1958)
There’s really not a better introduction to Kathy Barr’s Follow Me than this interview on The Armed Forces Network’s radio show “The Magic of Music”. This half-hour vintage radio program dated May 2, 1958 features the announcer interviewing Kathy in between selections from the LP (about half the album is represented here).
There are some GREAT lines in this must-hear radio show. The gentleman announcer and Kathy have a really good rapport but the announcer gives in to the temptation to ogle her a bit; it’s quite cute and Kathy obviously loves it. Here’s a couple of good ones:
Announcer: (referring to what Kathy is wearing on the album cover) That’s a beautiful gown.
Kathy: (suggestively) That’s a nightgown…
(The two laugh)
Kathy: I’m a New York girl. I was born and went to school and grew up in New York City. Of course, now Los Angeles is my home.
Announcer: Well, fine; we’ll get to addresses later…
2. Review of Kathy Barr’s Follow Me
RCA/Victor Records, 1957
(Periodically reissued on CD in Japan. My copy is a 2007 jewel box version in the “RCA Female Vocal ¥1000 Series” released by BMG Japan.)
MP3 download available from Amazon.com for $6.99.
I’m going to start this review with a fair warning that this is a true “Love It or Hate It” album if there ever was one. If you like your jazz and easy listening technically perfect and serious, you will probably think this album is terrible. On the other hand, if you like over-the-topness and voluptuous fifties gals, this record is a LOT of fun! But even then, it’s over-the-top enough that it may take some getting used to.
According to the liner notes on the back of the album, Kathy Barr was “born Marilyn Sultana Aboulafia in New York”, was of Turkish ancestry, and was discovered by Mario Lanza.
The orchestration on the album is by Jerry Fielding. The liner notes use the words “vibrant,” “vivacious,” “vital,” “volcanic,” “powerhouse,” “molten lava,” and “flaming redhead” to describe Kathy, so you know what you’re getting into already before putting this record on.
On the Over-The-Top-O-Meter, I would say Kathy Barr is about halfway between Marilyn Monroe and Yma Sumac. Kathy makes dramatic swoops to hit notes (and hits them) while the orchestration follows her from hip-bumping swagger to violent makeout passion. Kathy sits on your lap, teases, flirts, runs her fingers through your hair, and never lets you forget that she’s ALL WOMAN the entire time she sings, to the point that when she ends the album with the title track “Follow Me”, it’s almost torturous knowing that she’s leaving and you can’t go with her. “Don’t go…” you plead under your breath as she slinks out the door, the feather boa follows her, and the door slams behind her.
As hot as that sounds, again, be forewarned–it may just be annoying to you instead of hot. It took me a couple of listens before it really hit me under the belt, and even still some of the notes Kathy hits grate on me a bit occasionally. For instance, the “Make my bed, make my bed…” phrases at the end of “Bye Bye Blackbird” still annoy me. But all is forgiven–you don’t hear too many singers that straight up WOO you on vinyl, and it’s a lot of fun to hear her slinky showgirl take on “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (later revived by Tiny Tim) and her version of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” that totally one-ups Marilyn Monroe’s version.
Kathy did a non-LP single, “Welcome Mat” b/w “A Slip of the Hip” (1957), and some radio show transcriptions that have never been released on CD, but show up on eBay from time to time. She also appeared in a theatrical production of The Desert Song that had a soundtrack album released for it in 1958 that features her singing like an operatic songbird–very opposite of this record to say the least. And just recently, the European reissue company LP Time Records did a mini-LP CD reissue of Do It Again, the 1964 follow-up to Follow Me which was originally released on the MGM-distributed Ava imprint and also features Jerry Fielding conducting. So there’s more to collect from this incredible babe of a singer. And the mastering on Follow Me is crisp, clear, and warm, so of the typical high quality that is to be expected from our friends in Japan.
This is a great find for Bachelor Pad Music collectors and any man who loves having a 1950’s porcelain redhead with big, soft, jiggly curves sitting in his lap and singing to him–it’s not as good as the real thing but it’s not a bad substitute either.
3. Kathy Barr Discography:
Follow Me (RCA Victor, 1957)
“Welcome Mat” b/w “A Slip of the Hip” (RCA Victor, 1957)
Selections from “The Desert Song” (RCA Victor, 1958) with Giorgio Tozzi
Do it Again (Ava/MGM, 1964)
4. Kathy Barr, Where Are You?
So where is Kathy Barr now? Nostalgia and Now editor Andrew Godfrey and the author have both been investigating this for a while, and have come up completely empty-handed until today when we received this message from her daughter, Sylvia Glickman. We want to thank Sylvia for passing on this information to share with our readers.
Kathy Barr was my Mother. She passed away in Hollywood FL on June 21, 2008. She was married to Irwin Glickman, and leaves one daughter behind, Sylvia Glickman, and two grandsons.