James Kern Kyser was a popular bandleader and radio personality of the 1930s and 1940s.
He was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of pharmacists Paul Bynum Kyser and Emily Royster Kyser, and a cousin of Vermont C. Royster. Kyser graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was senior class president, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Because of his popularity and enthusiasm as a cheerleader, he was invited by Hal Kemp to take over as bandleader when Kemp ventured north to further his career. He began taking clarinet lessons but was better as an entertaining announcer than a musician. He adopted the initial of his middle name as part of his stage name, for its alliterative effect.
Following graduation, Kyser and his band, which included Sully Mason on saxophone and arranger George Duning, toured Midwest restaurants and night clubs and gradually built a following. They were particularly popular at Chicago’s Blackhawk restaurant, where Kyser came up with an act combining a quiz with music which became Kay Kyser?s Kollege of Musical Knowledge. The act was broadcast on the Mutual Radio in 1938 and then moved to NBC Radio from 1939 to 1949. The show rose in the ratings and spawned many imitators. Kyser led the band as ?The Ol? Perfessor,? spouting catch phrases: ?That?s right?you?re wrong,? ?Evenin? folks, how y?all?? and ?C’mon, chillun! Le’s dance!?
Although Kyser and his orchestra gained fame through the Kollege of Musical Knowledge, they were an excellent band in their own right. They had 11 number one records, including some of the most popular songs of the late 1930s and early 1940s.