Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Country Girl Kay - Life is Not a Bed of Roses b/w Arkansas Boogie

Super crackly and hiss-y goodness on this ancient mystery slab about which I know nothing, except that it turned out to be the dusty prize lining the bottom of a box of mostly abysmal country 45's purchased at a garage sale in Cortland, Illinois. Who is this Country Girl Kay and what's her story? The internet yields nothing, and a Google image search is probably a bad idea depending on your taste in rural-themed smut. I would love any information if anyone has the slightest clue. Until then all we're left with is two simple and enjoyable ditties of unadorned singing and picking.

boogie woogie down the line

Many thanks to the anonymous reader who pointed me in the direction of this obituary:

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media coverage of the crime, when the accused shooter was discovered, he had in his possession a suitcase containing "unpublished songs" written by Kay.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.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this is great! Arkansas Boogie is the shit. The other song is very pretty... This reminds me of Woody Guthrie, I hope that Country Girl Kay is playing the guitar on these songs.... I'd imagine she had something to do with the record company, too.

Anonymous said...


I manage a site dedicated to Montana recordings. A woman named Lisa Wheeler found Country Girl Kay's obituary, which I thought you might appreciate. Check it out here:


Mark said...

Thanks, anon!