Vocalist “Pretty” Kitty Kallen grew up in a poor section of Philadelphia and began singing on the radio at a young age, working on a local children’s program. As a teenager, she performed with hometown orchestras before joining Jack Teagarden in 1939. She married Teagarden clarinetist Clint Garvin and left the group in early 1942 when the bandleader fired Garvin during an economic purge.
Soon after going solo, Kallen launched her own radio program, Kitty Kallen Calling, on Los Angeles station KFI, where she sang accompanied by organist Bob Mitchell. Later that year, she recorded with Bobby Sherwood’s orchestra on the Capitol label and made several soundies for RCM.
In February 1943, Kallen joined Jimmy Dorsey, where she replaced the recently-departed Helen O’Connell in duets with Bob Eberly. She stayed with Dorsey until December, when she took time off from the band due to the flu. She never returned. She joined Harry James instead, replacing Helen Forrest, where she became highly popular, voted second best female band vocalist in Billboard magazine’s 1944 high school poll and seventh in the 1945 college poll.
Kallen left James in late 1945 to go solo again after the leader took a seven-week hiatus. Based on the West Coast, Kallen recorded on the Musicraft label in 1946, both as a solo artist and as a vocalist on an Artie Shaw album of Cole Porter songs. That year, she also co-hosted the CBS radio program, Holiday for Music, with Curt Massey. When Doris Day left Your Hit Parade late in 1947, NBC offered Kallen the job, but she refused, not wanting to set up permanent residence on the East Coast.
In February 1948, Kallen married New York press agent Bud Granoff. The couple had a son in November. In 1949, she signed with Mercury, recording on the label into 1951, and in March 1952 she reunited with Harry James to record four songs on Columbia. In 1953, she signed with Decca, where she stayed through 1955. She appeared on several television programs during the early part of that decade and filmed three musical shorts. In 1955, she made her only motion picture appearance, a lead role in Universal’s musical western The Second Greatest Sex.
During 1955, Kallen stopped singing in public due to a paralyzing fear that caused her to lose her voice every time she faced an audience. She remained out of the public eye for four years before finally overcoming the psychological affliction. After resuming her career, she continued singing through the mid-1960s.
In 1978, reports of Kallen’s death circulated prematurely after a woman who died in a Los Angeles hospital told staff that her stage name was Kitty Kallen.
Kallen’s brother, Lenny, formed his own band in late 1948. Kitty Kallen passed away in 2016, age 94.