The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for July 18th, 2013

The Anita Kerr Singers Step Out of the Background On Reissue of “The Genius in Harmony”

with 5 comments

Anita Kerr - Genius in HarmonyThe release of director Morgan Neville’s documentary 20 Feet from Stardom has rightfully placed the spotlight on those dynamite vocalists who toil in the shadows on record and onstage, often without credit.  Background singers are part and parcel of the story of popular music, and Neville’s film has given richly-deserved attention to Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Judith Hill, and other greats of the field.  The story of background groups like The Breakaways, The Jordanaires, The Andantes and The Sweet Inspirations could fill an entire motion picture, too.  And one of the most successful such groups of all time was The Anita Kerr Singers.  As a major component of The Nashville Sound, Anita Kerr led her choir on records by Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Brenda Lee, Eddy Arnold, Willie Nelson and Floyd Cramer.  Their distinctive harmonies were also heard behind Roy Orbison, Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Vinton, and too many others to mention.  Like The Sweet Inspirations or The Jordanaires, The Anita Kerr Singers also struck out on their own even as they continued to support other artists, and Cherry Red’s él label has recently reissued two of the group’s earliest LPs on one CD.  The Genius in Harmony includes the entirety of the group’s 1962 RCA Victor tribute to Ray Charles along with its immediate predecessor, the same year’s Nashville…The Hit Sound.

Born in Tennessee, Anita Kerr was only in her early twenties when her eight-voice choir achieved a spot on radio station WSM, home of the Grand Ole Opry.  Her weekly broadcasts led to a call to join Red Foley in the recording studio for “Our Lady of Fatima” became a No. 16 Pop hit in 1950, and from there, Anita Kerr’s career took off.  She was signed by Owen Bradley to Decca Records, and by 1955, Kerr was leading a group on roughly eight recording sessions per week.  (The liner notes to él’s CD surmise that the group was heard on 25 percent of the recordings made in Nashville in the latter half of the 1950s!)  In 1956 her slimmed-down vocal quartet won the opportunity to appear regularly on Arthur Godfrey’s popular Talent Scouts program on both television and radio.  Arranger/singer Kerr- also a gifted pianist, composer and producer – signed with RCA Victor in 1961, leading to the two LPs on the new CD reissue.

Hit the jump for more on both albums, including the full track listing with discography and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 18, 2013 at 13:20