American singer, composer, arrager and producer, Anita Kerr, 21st May 1973. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
The heavens are rocking to the Nashville sound today.
Anita Kerr, a country music icon and pioneer who was known as a great contributor of the rich “Nashville Sound,” died on Monday, October 10th in Geneva, Switzerland.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Kerr moved to Nashville in 1947 where she formed a vocal quintet. The Anita Kerr Singers were eventually hired by WSM, the station that broadcast “The Grand Ole Opry,” to perform on the “Sunday Down South” show. They were later signed to Decca Records.
Throughout her time living in the Music City, the prolific session singer, composer, and arranger and her group worked alongside such producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley, and they did studio session work for Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline.
The Anita Kerr Singers’ background vocals can be heard on thousands of famous songs and jingles recorded in Nashville in the 1950s and ’60s. What started as two sessions a week quickly became 12 to 18 sessions per week plus a five-day-a-week national program at WSM with Jim Reeves.
On her website you can find her love statement for her art:
“I did everything regarding music, I couldn’t get enough.”
“I never had the problem of wondering what I was going to do when I grew up. I always knew that it would be music.”
The Grammy winner is not in the Country Music Hall of Fame despite having performed on hits of many Hall of Famers such as Red Foley, Eddy Arnold, and Hank Snow.
Earlier this year, author Barry Pugh published Kerr’s biography titled Anita Kerr: First Lady of Music.
In Pugh’s words:
“What this gifted and disciplined artist achieved in the man’s world that was Nashville in the 50’s, and her West Coast ascent in the 60’s, is the great untold story of popular music.”
According to the New York Times, Ms. Kerr was known as a protector of country music’s viability in the face of the “commercial threat” presented by the emergence of rock ’n’ roll.
Her legacy and music live on.
Rest in Peace.
Anita Kerr (who died Monday) and her group sang backup on thousands of Nashville recordings during the 1950s and early 1960s and helped broaden country music’s appeal. Here the Anita Kerr Singers perform on "The Porter Wagoner Show" in 1962. pic.twitter.com/ksCEy8fQij