Kitty Kallen is an American popular singer who sang with a number of big bands in the 1940s, coming back in the 1950s to score her biggest hit, “Little Things Mean a Lot” in 1954.
Born in Philadelphia to a Jewish family, she won an amateur contest as a child doing imitations of some singers of the day. When she brought her prize home, her father refused to believe her and thought she had stolen the camera, so he punished her severely. Later, when neighborhood people came to congratulate her father, he realized that her story was true. Subsequently she sang on The Children’s Hour, a radio program sponsored by Horn & Hardart, a firm which had a chain of Automats in New York and Philadelphia. As a pre-teen she had her own program on Philadelphia’s WCAU, and soon she sang as a vocalist with the big bands of Jan Savitt in 1936 and Artie Shaw in 1938, and Jack Teagarden in 1940. While with the Savitt band, she briefly was a roommate of Dinah Shore. She married Clint Garvin, who played clarinet in Teagarden’s band, and when Teagarden fired Garvin, she left as well. The marriage was annulled.
Kallen later married Bud Granoff, a famous publicist, agent, and television producer. They were married over forty-five years, until Granoff’s death. Still only a teenager at that time–after a short stay with Bobby Sherwood–she joined the Jimmy Dorsey band, replacing Helen O’Connell. Eventually, in 1944, she appeared as the vocalist for Dorsey’s US number-one hit, “Besame Mucho”. Most of her singing assignments were in duets with Bob Eberly, and when Eberly left to go into the service toward the end of 1943, she joined Harry James’ band.
Kallen became a popular artist on radio, film, and nightclubs, but lost her voice at the height of her career. She eventually made a comeback, with the 1954 hit “Little Things Mean a Lot” and Kallen was voted most popular female singer in Billboard and Variety polls.