Beverly Kenney

1932 - 1960

TIMELINE

• January 29, 1932, Harrison, New Jersey

 

• Early 1950s - Began career singing telegrams for Western Union

• Won an amateur contest in a small New Jersey nightclub

1954: Recorded demo with Tony Tamburello (released in 2006 as “Snuggled on Your Shoulder”

 

• 1954: Black Magic Room, Miami

 

• July 1954: Brook Lounge, Miami

 

• September 1954: Headlining the “La Vie En Rose” club in Miami

 

• April 1955: Toured with Jimmy & Tommy Dorsey’s Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (a gig she got with the help of George DeWitt [Miami News Herald, 3/31/55]) starting at the beginning of April

"Tommy and Jimmy liked me, but they thought I was too much of a stylist for the band. After a few months on the road, I left, and returned to New York” [Korall, Burt (1959). Born to be Blue (Media notes). Beverly Kenney. Decca Records]

 

• Returned to New York, performed in nightclubs with George Shearing, Don Elliott, and Kai Winding.

 

• July, 1955: Appeared at The Ja-Da La Martinique Club in NJ

 

• 1955:  Performed in a Jazz Benefit concert for Israel at Carnegie Hall, her “big break”, sharing the bill with Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Tito Puente, Marian McPartland

 

• February 2, 1956 - Began a run at Birdland in NYC

 

• April 30, 1956 - Began a run at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, MI, with guitarist Johnny Smith’s Quintet

 

• 1956:  Appeared at the Playgoer Room at the Westnor restaurant in Westport, Connecticut (October 25, 1956 newspaper ad)

 

• October, 1956: Appeared on the NBC live radio show, “Sound Flight ’56”.

Downbeat Critic Nat Hentoff, after her debut at NY’s Basin Street Club, wrote, “(Kenney is) more flexible than Helen Merrill, swings more easily than Teddi King, and her musicianship and care for lyrics are far superior to Chris Connor’s.”

 

•  1956: Recorded the album, “Beverly Kenney Sings for Johnny Smith” (Decca)

 

• 1956 : Short midwest tour with trumpeter Larry Sonn’s big band. Her fear of driving led her to consider leaving the trip early by train.

 

• August 29, 1956 - Played the reopening of Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago. She had her dates wrong and accidentally flew in a week early and ended up helping out with the construction crew [Chicago Tribune, 8/23/56]

 

• October, 1956: Playgoer Room at the Westnor Restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.

 

• March 12, 1957: Appeared live on radio on the Robert Q. Lewis Show

 

• Oct 13, 1957: Appeared at “Harvey’s Day” Tribute for Harvey Husten at the Red Hill Inn. Other performers included Errol Garner, Gerry Mulligan, Billy Taylor, Cannonball Adderly, Oscar Pettiford, Phineas Newborn, Jr., Charles Mingus, Marian McPartland, Helen Merrel, Ruth Price, Bill Evans, Leonard Feather

 

• Began residency with saxophonist Lester Young’s Quintet at Birdland

 

• Late April 1958 - Appeared at The Embers in NYC with Bill Williams

 

• May 18, 1958: Kenney performed on The Steve Allen Show, singing her original song, “I Hate Rock ’n’ Roll”

 

• Aug 19-24, 1958: Appeared at the Mardi Gras nightclub in Rochester, NY.

 

• 1958: Recorded the album “Beverly Kenney Sings for Playboys” (Decca)

 

• 1959: Recorded the album “Born To Be Blue” (Decca). Editor Allan Gilbert, Jr. wrote, "...she has the ability to gently, huskily slur, warp and mould her phrasing to achieve rare individuality" and that she "could be tomorrow's big name.” ˜(May 1, 1958, Northwest Arkansas Times. Fayetteville, Arkansas)

 

• February 7, 1960: Appeared on Playboy’s Penthouse, singing XXXXX and in a duet with host, Hugh Hefner, on “Makin’ Whoopee”

 

• April 12, 1960 - After a period when her friends said she had been “out of sight”, her body was discovered in her apartment. This was her third suicide attempt. Autopsy report stated she died of “visceral congestion”.A combination of alcohol and Seconal (pink pills) was reported.

 

TRIVIA

• It is not known exactly why she took her own life, but there is speculation that it was due to a love-affair gone bad with Greenwich Village professional intellectual, Milton Klonsky.

• According to a mention by famed columnist, Walter Winchell, Kenney worked as a private eye between gigs.

• Kenney bared it all for the magazine, Playboy, but the session did not go well and the photos were destroyed. It is safe to assume this happened near the time of her appearance on Hugh Hefner's "Playboy's Penthouse" TV show.

NOTABLE QUOTES