Marilyn Maye (born April 10, 1928) is an American cabaret singer and musical theatre actress. She began her career as a young child performing in Kansas in both live concerts and on the radio. After graduating from high school, she moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she drew the attention of Steve Allen, performing first on The Steve Allen Show and later The Tonight Show.
Ella Fitzgerald referred to Maye as "the greatest white female singer in the world." She holds the distinction of being the most frequently heard singer in the history of the latter program. She made numerous recordings with RCA during the 1960s, after which she has had a highly successful career as a cabaret artist, continuing to this day. She has also occasionally appeared on the stage in musicals.
Born Marilyn Maye McLaughlin in Wichita, Kansas, she began her career as a child, competing in amateur contests in Topeka, Kansas, where her father, a pharmacist, owned a drugstore. She was accompanied on piano by her mother, who had named her daughter for her own favourite entertainer, musical theatre star Marilyn Miller.
She began her musical training with her mother at the age of 3. At the age of 9 she began taking voice lessons with Rosamond Nyman, a teacher of classical singing, in Topeka. In 1942, after her parents divorced, she moved with her mother to Des Moines, Iowa.
At age 14, while attending Amos Hiatt Junior High School, she sang for songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and got her own 15-minute radio show on Des Moines station KRNT. Another source puts the 13-week show on Topeka station WIBW (580 AM), followed by a live broadcast from the Jayhawk Theatre each Saturday morning for two years. She graduated from East High School. After moving to Chicago, she played "every Moose and Elks club in the state of Illinois".
In 2008, she received a Distinguished Arts Award from the Governor of Kansas. Other honors include the Jazz Heritage Award, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassador's Award of Excellence, the Elder Statesmen of Jazz Award, and lifetime achievement awards from both the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and Kansas City's CODA Jazz Fund.
She was named an Official Jazz Legend by the American Jazz Museum. She was listed as one of the Best Performers of the Best Compositions of the 20th Century by The Arts Council of the Smithsonian Institution for her recording of Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's composition "Too Late Now", written for MGM's musical comedy film Royal Wedding (1951).
On September 18, 2012, the Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City (NSDGKC) honoured Maye with the organization's "Outstanding Kansas Citian-2012" Award. Over 500 people attended the recognition dinner at the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to honouring the hometown jazz legend, the NSDGKC presented a historic marker to Greg Carroll, Chief Executive Officer of the American Jazz Hall of Fame (located at 18th and Vine Streets) in Kansas City. Following the dinner and presentations, Maye performed an hour-and-a-half concert of her best-known jazz songs in the centre’s Helzberg Hall.
On October 14, 2012, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Cabaret Professionals Association. Maye has one daughter, Kristi Tucker (born October 1952) who teaches at the Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice in Overland Park, Kansas. Maye lives with Helen Zarda, her assistant, in Overland Park. (Info edited from Wikipedia)