THE BAND OF BLACKY RANCHETTE "Heartland" 1986 - The second Blacky record 1986’s Heartland was followed three years later by the third, Sage Advice. These records all predated the "Alt Country" movement b...
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Country Girl Kay is Helen Evelyn (Kay) Smith Whittaker Gardner.
March 7, 1923 - March 12, 2002
Born in Missouri. Died in Washington (state).
Kay and her sister Wanda grew up as country singers, and were regular performers on KWTO in Springfield, Missouri ("The Smith Sisters"). Wanda met and married singer Ted Henderson and they went on to perform and tour as the country duo "Wanda and Ted."
Ted introduced Kay to Carson Jack Whittaker, a Livingston Montana singer who was looking for a duet partner. The two traveled the US, performing as a duo, and in the 1940s they married, eventually moving back to Montana. Carson Jack then gave up performing to became Kay's manager, and she was soon billed Country Girl Kay. They formed the Whitkay record label during this time (recording at Valtron Studios in Helena). Carson Jack was murdered July 1964, while hitchhiking near Afton, Wyoming. According to media coverage of the crime, when the accused shooter was discovered, he had in his possession a suitcase containing "unpublished songs" written by Kay.
(The Whitkay recordings were all made before 1964, as Kay did not record after her husband's death - but the exact year the singles were made is not determined).
Kay stayed in Montana, and later married Bill Gardner, who moved the couple to Cutbank. In 1975 Bill passed away and she moved to Kalispell, where she taught music, and performed locally.
In 1999 she relocated to Washington state, to be closer to her son. She died in a nursing home in Spokane, and is buried in Buffalo, Missouri.