We continue with more “firsts.” “Rock and Roll Waltz” was the first number one song in the rock era by a female. It was the first number one to have the phrase “rock and roll” in it’s title and it was the first number one for the RCA Record label. This is a fun song, although, it’s apparent that the record industry wanted to jump on the rock and roll bandwagon, but wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. Kay Starr was a mainstream singer who had never recorded anything close to rock and roll, but the record companies wanted to take advantage of this new trend.
Kay Starr was born Katherine LaVerne Starks in 1922 in Dougherty, Oklahoma. She started singing at the young age of seven. An aunt heard her and thought she was good enough to sing on a local radio station. Soon, she had her own 15-minute show. Her father got a new job in Memphis, Tennessee, so they moved there and that’s when her career kicked into high gear. As early as fifteen years of age, she was singing with the big bands. She sang with various bands, including Glenn Miller and Bob Crosby, throughout the early Forties until in 1946, she sent solo.
Her first number one song, “Wheel of Fortune,” was in 1953. Her second and last number one was “Rock and Roll Waltz”
The music for “Rock and Roll Waltz” was written by Shorty Allen in 1955. The lyrics are in question. No one seems to know for sure, but we think it was written by Roy Allen. When the song was presented to Kay, she thought they were joking. The song was much simpler than what she was used to singing. This is kind of the hallmark of rock and roll – simple. She’s glad she recorded it, it probably made her a lot of money, but during personal performances like television shows, she has never been asked to sing the song live. They always want to hear “Wheel of Fortune.”
“Rock and Roll Waltz” was number one for six weeks. As of 2015, Kay Starr is still alive and living in Bel Air in Los Angeles. She still performs occasionally.
Next: “The Great Pretender” – The Platters