QUESTION: Kate Smith had a nickname. What was it?
A) Queen Goddess of the Radio
B) The Songbird of the South
C) The Lilting Lullaby of the LP
D) Musical Matron of the Americas
The American Treasure Tour has a special affection for Kate Smith, not only because of her beautiful voice but because of her connection to the Philadelphia Flyers. We are happy to discuss her life and accomplishments, as inspired by one of her record albums displayed near the ceiling in our Music Room.
Question: what happens when you want to be a singer, but your dad wants you to be a nurse? Answer: you enroll in nursing school to make dad happy, but abandon the program and start singing anyway. That is what happened to Kate Smith when she was a teenager. Born in Greenville, Virginia in 1907, Smith did not speak a word until after she turned four years old, but then they could not stop her from using her voice. She was in a church choir by age five, and singing for soldiers stationed in Washington, D.C. during the Great War. In 1930, she signed on with the vice president of Columbia Records, which began the greatest relationship of her life. She became prominent through various radio shows she hosted and sang on, too.
International stardom followed, including the recording of the song for which she would be connected the rest of her life: "God Bless America." Written by Irving Berlin and first recorded by Smith in 1938 as a message of hope against the threat of National Socialism in Europe, her powerful rendition proved a rallying cry for people across the country. Smith starred in the patriotic 1943 film This Is the Army singing her classic song. After the war, she moved on into television with different variety shows and commercials.
An unexpected addendum to Smith's career began in 1969, when a recording of her version of "God Bless America" was used at the beginning of a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game. The perception was that the Flyers would be more likely to win a game when the song was played, so it became custom to hear it before the puck dropped. In 1973, Smith made her first of a number of appearances in the city, actually singing it live before the audience. The chances that the Flyers will win a game after Smith's version is played are greater, so maybe there is a truth to it. And to this day there is a statue of her singing in front of the Flyers' stadium.
Okay. So we spent today talking about Kate Smith and her remarkable career, not even mentioning her album on display. We will have to get to that tomorrow....
ANSWER: B) The Songbird of the South. She was also known as The First Lady of the Radio