Kay Kyser

Kay Kyser


Kay Kyser
Radio: West side of the 1600 block of Vine Street
Kay Kyser
Music: East side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Born James Kern Kyser on June 18, 1905 in Rocky Mount, NC
Died July 23, 1985 of heart attack in Chapel Hill, N.C.

James Kern (Kay) Kyser was the "Old Perfesser" on radio's beloved "Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge."

Years after he abandoned his band, Kyser admitted he couldn't read a note of music or play an instrument.

From 1933 until 1949, Kyser and his assemblage of musical madcaps rode atop the radio ratings.

Each Wednesday night over NBC, Kyser offered an hourlong blend of comedy, music and quaint queries in games few ever lost. If a contestant, particularly a serviceman during the war, couldn't answer one of the Perfesser's questions, the Perfesser was more than willing to provide the answer.

Kyser and the band dressed in academic caps and gowns for each broadcast, a segment of which was a series of true-false questions. When the answer was false, Kyser would cry in his North Carolina drawl, "That's wrong, you're right" or conversely, "That's right, you're wrong."

One of Kyser's favorite pranks was having his contestants try to identify the many accents announcer Bill Forman could imitate. Forman, of course, was billed as "dean" of the musical college.

Assisting Kyser was a succession of singer-comics, the best known was Ish Kabibble (Merwyn A. Bogue) who, sporting a haircut with bangs, warbled the lyrics to such Hit Parade gibberish as "Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey," or "Three Little Fishies."

Other Kyser singing discoveries included TV personality Mike Douglas, Harry Babbitt, Ginny Simms and Georgia Carroll, whom Kyser married in 1944.

In 1951 Kyser moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., where he was a spokesman for his religious beliefs. In 1983, he was named president of the Mother Church of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, an honorary title given to a member who has made a significant contribution to the movement.

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