Kitty O'Connor, the Girl Baritone

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Harold Aherne

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Kitty O'Connor, the Girl Baritone

PostWed Feb 27, 2013 5:13 pm

If you've collected records long enough, you might have occasionally seen the name of Kitty O'Connor and her curious nickname "The Girl Baritone" turn up on black/gold Viva-Tonal Columbia discs of the late 1920s. If you've listened to any of her sides, you will have heard her unusual, slightly androgynous voice singing "Yearning", "My Way of Forgetting You" and other hits of the day. Here's one from September 1926, "I Never Knew What the Moonlight Could Do":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOA77LR1ybI



I'd describe myself as a fan of Kitty, with the reservation only that her diction can seem forced on occasion (as in the above side), although some later sides (not posted online) don't display the characteristic as much.

Virtually no information about KO'C can be found online other than from her main years of activity. She toured in vaudeville during the 20s, made a Victor test on 17 Feb. 1925, then recorded for Columbia from March 1925 through May 1928 with a total of 23 issued sides. Her biggest success was a six-month Broadway run in Take the Air during the 1927-28 season in which she portrayed the role of Broncho Liz. In his column "This Week in New York", Gilbert Swan wrote of her in the 18 Dec. 1927 issue of The Pittsburgh Press:

Kitty O'Connor, found by Gene Buck for his "Take the Air," grabs her moments with a husky cowgirl number that works like a traffic cop, insofar as the audience is concerned [i.e. it stops the show, which was the theme of his column that day].


Before hitting Broadway, she performed with her sister, as evidenced by this 24 Dec. 1926 write-up from the Niagara Falls Gazette:

Certainly the name Kitty O'Connor sounds feminine enough and the owner of the name, Kitty herself, is feminine enough. That is[,] she is feminine in all respects except vocal. Vocally she is a baritone. If her voice were heard without her being seen, most everyone would be sure it was a man's singing. Kitty O'Connor has made innumerable phonograph records. For that reason she is frequently called "The Columbia Girl." In vaudeville she is assisted by her sister, Pat. Pat is feminine even unto her voice. The two are harmony singers. The blend of voices and the girls themselves are both very pretty.


I've discovered very little other information about Kitty. There was a Kitty O'Connor who appeared in two Broadway productions in 1919-20, but it's hard to say whether it's the future Girl Baritone, and references to her pretty well disappears after 1928.

-HA
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JFK

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Kitty O'Connor, the Girl Baritone

PostWed Feb 27, 2013 6:29 pm

Not only sounds, but looks, like a man .
(big ol' hands, hidden Adam's Apple...)
................the Billy Tipton (jazz pianist) story, in reverse ?
ImageImage
.......................................................,,,,,,,,..........http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Tipton

Last edited by JFK on Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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entredeuxguerres

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Re: Kitty O'Connor, the Girl Baritone

PostWed Feb 27, 2013 6:31 pm

Found nothing notably "forced" about her diction, except her slightly affected pronunciation of "you"; compared, however, to Alexander Grey's ear-boxing "you," it's nothing. Her sound, on the other hand, may be something of an acquired taste...like the curious fascination of some eccentrics with Yola D'Avril, Helen Chandler, or other offbeat types.
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entredeuxguerres

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Re: Kitty O'Connor, the Girl Baritone

PostWed Feb 27, 2013 6:32 pm

JFK wrote:Not only sounds, but looks, like a man
(big hands, hidden Adam's Apple).


Sooo cruel!
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greta de groat

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Re: Kitty O'Connor, the Girl Baritone

PostWed Feb 27, 2013 11:03 pm

JFK wrote: Not only sounds, but looks, like a man .
(big ol' hands, hidden Adam's Apple).
[color=#80BFBF].....the Billy Tipton (jazz pianist) story, in reverse
ImageImage
.......................................................,,,,,,,,..........http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Tipton



Silent movie connection here: There is an opera on the life of Billy Tipton--written by Timothy Brock. I actually was present at the premier of this, since several of my co-workers were part of Brock's orchestra at the time which played for his earliest silent film scores.

greta
Greta de Groat
Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen
http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat

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