LONG BEACH STATE FORTY-NINER
State Senior Serves Country in Radio Broadcast to Servicemen
A senior at LBSC, formerly a member of a nationally known singing team has turned her talents towards helping her country.
Kay Strother, with her sister Cynthia, made their break into show business as the famous Bell Sisters in 1951. They are best remembered for their composition and recording of "Bermuda."
She, along with radio-television new commentator Elmer Peterson, is presently cutting records of informative talks which will be released to the armed services overseas.
"I understand that President Kennedy contacted the armed forces broadcasting committee and asked that these records be made," Miss Strother said.
"What we are doing is really attempting to cement the relations between the United States and other countries."
At President Kennedy's request, Miss Strother and Peterson first made the series on the countries in NATO and SEATO.
In the five-minute recordings, which are broadcast to our servicemen overseas, Kay plays the part of a college girl. She asks Peterson, who is a well-seasoned traveler, questions about the particular country to which the series is being broadcast.
"We keep it real informal, and infer that our main purpose is to inform servicemen of interesting facts about the country they're in," she said. "Actually we're doing this, but our biggest hope is that the people of the country will also be listening to the broadcasts."
As the discussion is primarily on the country involved, the United States is kept strictly in the background.
Kay got her start with the armed forces broadcasting during the 1960 presidential election. She was chosen as the Absentee Ballot Girl and appeared on television and radio to urge members of armed services overseas to file an absentee allot.
Her performance was so widely accepted that she was asked to do the present series.
After doing the first recordings in this series, the armed forces decided to make records which could be released to include countries behind the Iron Curtain.
"America's whole attitude towards communism is changing and we're hitting them (the communists) below the belt--just a little bit below the belt--" Kay hastily added.
One incident she recalls is the time when an official of an overseas radio station found out that the Russians were using their radio frequency to broadcast propoganda.
"They found out that the Russians were broadcasting on their frequency at night after they went off the air. Now the station plays music all night long to prevent this," she noted.
The informative series are due to be released in early 1962. Kay hopes that she'll be able to hear some of the broadcasts when she tours Europe in October of that year.
Working to help the troops overseas is certainly not new to either Kay or 25-year-old Cynthia.
The Bell Sisters were included in the top list of entertainers between 1951-1954.
In addition to making many records, they appeared in two movies and several short subjects. Radio and television are two other fields of media in which they were known.
Kay said her biggest thrill came at the time when she was only 13 years old. During the Christmas season of 1953 and 1954, she and Cynthia traveled to the Far East to entertain the troops. Kay still holds the record as the youngest performer to accomplish this task.
Because the girls were minors, their mother went with them, and she has the distinction of being the only non-performer to travel with such a group, she said.
Under Vets Wings
Another memorable experience for the girls was working with veteran performs such as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. "We did a TV spectacular with Bob and Bing. They both took us under their wings," she recalled.
Cynthia is now married, has two children, and lives in Seal Beach.
Kay sings professionally with Elliot Brothers at Disneyland in addition to being a full-time student at LBSC. As an English major she hopes to eventually teach junior or senior high school, and says that she is "really enthusiastic about it."
After graduation she wants to give show business another whirl, she added.
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NEWS FROM DISNEYLAND
NEWS FROM DISNEYLAND
THE SPACEMEN (Biography)
For a new jazz combo that has hardly been on the boards for a year, the Spacemen in Disneyland have launched themselves into a kind of musical orbit.
For more than five years Sonny Anderson and Johnny Schmidt have been members of the Disneyland Band. Last summer they wrote some unique arrangements, gathered four more artists for a small band and took over the Disneyland Space Bar as the Spacemen.
At summer's end, they found bookings during the winter in supper clubs, found time to write "Surfer's Stomp" a twister's delight, and record it for an album.
Now they're back in Disneyland for the summer as part of the bitg cast that appears every night in Disneyland After Dark, biggest nighttime show in the Southland. Cast includes five dance bands, Tahitian shows, singing groups, guest vocalists, fireworks show, and special guest bands like Harry James set to appear July 26, 27 and 28.
With all their nighttime work, Johnny and Sonny maintain their day work with the Disneyland Band. "Sure it's long hours," says Johnny, "but who cares as long as we're making music."
Sonny plays the vibes for the Spacemen, while Johnny lips anything with a reed from sax to clarinet. Eddie Erickson handles bass; Gary Howland, drums; Waltz Malzahn, trombone; and Jimmy Seitzinger, trumpet.
This year Kay Bell, formerly one of the Bell Sisters, joined the Spacemen. When this red headed bombshell rips out "Kansas City Here I Come," the rocket in Tomorrowland starts steaming and thumping on its launching pad.
Setting some kind of a show business record for a first year, the Spacemen round it out June 30, 7:30 P.M. they appear with the Four Freshmen, and Dick and DeeDee on "Meet Me At Disneyland," the hour long TV show direct from Disneyland over KTTV - Channel 11.
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It was just about a decade ago that the city of Seal Beach resounded with the swinging songs of the singing Bell Sisters, a pair of pre-teen youngsters who made Bermuda more famous than Orange County.
But while their song has ended, the melody lingers on for Seal Beach residents who fondly recall the girls who rose to fame and fortune when they were scarcely old enough to wear lipstick.
In case you're wondering, Cynthia and Kay Bell, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. E.R. Strother, of 232 Fifth St., are still Seal Beach sisters, of course, but their "sister-act" has taken on a new perspective.
Kay Still Sings
Kay, at 22, is still active in show business. She sings at Disneyland with the Spacemen, and reportedly is being considered for bigger things by the Disney entertainment trust.
But, there is another side to the red-tressed veteran of show business. A graduate of Long Beach State College, she is a student teacher at a Long Beach junior high.
Her warm and friendly manner puts her at ease on either stage or classroom floor, but she's uneasy when she's living alone. After living away from home, for some time, she moved back recently.
"I hate to be lonely," she explained, "and with six sisters and a brother, there's always somebody around to talk to."
Cynthia Bell, who wrote many of the songs the girls made famous, has contented herself with "retirement" to the roles of wife and mother.
She and her husband, Ellison Seth, live at 636 Shore Dr. with their three children.
The sisters' first hit--"Bermuda"--sold more than a million copies, although it was recorded at about the same time as Johnny Ray's "Cry," and consequently only reached No. 2 on the hit parade.
But after the Cinderella debut of "Bermuda," the music industry seemed to lose interest in the girls' own music, which their father, Gene Strother, helped to write.
"The recording company offered us their music," said Strother, an electrician, "but they just didn't want the girls to do what we had written."
Fourteen appearances with both Bing Crosby and Bob Hope followed.
The little girls did two movies, "Redheads from Seattle" and "Cruising Down the River."
They also toured Japan and Korea to entertain troops during the Korean war, and they were featured in most national magazines.
Today, they are still regarded by some in the music world as being perhaps the most talented singers in America, but now they only sing together at family gatherings.
Both the girls graduated from Huntington Beach High School where Kay was cheerleader. A brother Rex, 17, is in his senior year now and little sister, Alice, 16, is in her junior year.
Although there are no plans for the two sisters to enter show business together again, their family believes that they are better now than ever.
Photo Caption: SWINGING BELLS ARE SILENT NOW. Cynthia (left) and Kay recall famed sister act.
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Junior high school students in Long Beach may not know it but a certain pert young school marm is a well-known singer incognito during school hours. Her name is Kay Bell, the younger of the famous Bell Sisters of a few years back.
About 1952, the girls rose to sudden fame and fortune when Kay and her older sister Cynthia composed and recorded a soulful ditty called "Bermuda." They proceeded to put it and a follow-up, "The Wheel of Fortune" on the nation's hit parade. At that time both girls lived with their family in Seal Beach, where they shared the home with five other brothers and sisters.
Today Kay Bell is the only one in the family to continue with a professional musical career. The family still lives in Seal Beach, but Cynthia is married and has four children. Countians may see Kay and her dance band, the Spacemen, every night in the week but Monday, as they appear in the Disneyland Space Bar--a swingin' rock n'roll hangout for the teen set.
Miss Bell has been doing the Disneyland bandstand bit with partner Sonny Anderson for three years, and put herself through college while doing so. An accredited junior high school teacher (who works at it) she was unable to attend her graduation party at Long Beach State because she had to go to work at the big park.
Kay, a pretty young redhead, hopes she is about to launch a new recording career with Capitol Records. She wants to specialize in singing the blues, a style she does well.
At the park, Miss Bell and her Spacemen have a loyal following. Among the gifts she has received is a huge stuffed toy dog, shown with her in the photograph adjoining. About two thousand kids meet at the Space Bar on weekend nights, and during the week, Kay holds court with from three to four hundred of them. The evening begins with a jam session, featuring the Bell-Anderson blend of rock n'roll with a Latin beat, and a party for the younger Disneyland visitors who get a chance to twist with Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Mickey Mouse, Flower and other Disney characters. The "Animals" play musical instruments and the evening is on six nights a week, the routine is followed, making a gruelling career for Miss Bell.
Off-hours, the songstress-bandleader rests, swims and recuperates for the week ahead. Single, she seems more interested in building a new career than in matrimony. At 24, Kay Bell recalls vividly the heyday of the Bell Sisters, when Bing Crosby and Bob Hope featured the then chubby little girl as she crooned ballads about a lost love both here and abroad. Overseas shows for servicemen are a thing of the past, born of Korea. But there is nothing to say Kay Bell as a soloist and personality in her own right won't once more climb to the top. She did it once before, at an age when most girls are just putting away their dolls.
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