Marilyn Maye

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Marilyn Maye
Publicity photo, c. 1960s
Publicity photo, c. 1960s
Background information
Birth nameMarilyn Maye McLaughlin
Born (1928-04-10) April 10, 1928 (age 94)[1]
Wichita, Kansas, United States
Occupation(s)Singer, actress
Years active1942–present
LabelsRCA Victor

Marilyn Maye McLaughlin (born April 10, 1928) is an American jazz singer, cabaret singer, and musical theater actress. She began her career as a young child, performing in Kansas in 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 then The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She is the most frequently heard singer on the program, having appeared 76 times.

Maye recorded for RCA Victor during the 1960s, after which she has had a successful career as a cabaret singer. She has appeared on stage in musicals.[2]


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 named her after singer Marilyn Miller.[3]

Maye 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 in Topeka.[2] 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. She was given a fifteen-minute radio show on KRNT in Des Moines. She graduated from East High School.

Moving to Kansas City, Missouri, she produced her first records locally.[4]: 44  For nearly two decades, she worked as the primary soloist of Durrett Productions, a local jingle company.[4]: 50  Together with her third husband, she worked engagements at the Colony Club for eleven years.[5] There, she came to the attention of Steve Allen, who invited her to appear on his show; shortly after, she signed a recording contract with RCA Victor. She appeared on The Tonight Show 76 times and received a 1966 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.[6][7] Her version of the song "Cabaret" became a hit. In 1967, Maye recorded "Step to the Rear" from the musical How Now Dow Jones, which she later reprised as a commercial jingle for Lincoln Mercury.[6] She also performed it in support of Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray and US Senator Bob Dole.[8][9][10]

As supper club culture declined, she took on roles in theatre, including Mame, Can-Can, Follies, and Hello, Dolly.[5] At 78, her career was revived in 2006 when she performed at Lincoln Center for the Mabel Mercer Foundation.[6] In 2010, she performed at a Carnegie Hall concert in celebration of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday.[11] She continues to sing in nightclubs nationwide, including Feinstein's/54 Below, at which she performs an annual birthday show.[12] She also teaches clinics and masterclasses.

Since 1981, Billy Stritch has worked as Maye's off-and-on accompanist and music director.[13][14]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2008, she received a Distinguished Arts Award from the governor of Kansas.[15] 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[16] and Kansas City's CODA Jazz Fund.

She was given a lifetime achievement award by the American Jazz Museum and inducted into its Walk of Fame.[17][18] She has also received lifetime achievement awards from the Great American Songbook Foundation, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and the Chicago Cabaret Professionals Association.[19][20]

Her version of "Too Late Now" was included in the Smithsonian Institution recordings of the 20th Century.[5] On September 18, 2012, the Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City honored Maye with the organization's Outstanding Kansas Citian Award.[21]

Ella Fitzgerald referred to Maye as "the greatest white female singer in the world".[22]

Personal life[edit]

Maye has been married three times. For nine years, she and her second husband ran a dance studio in Kansas City. Her third husband, pianist Sammy Tucker, accompanied her for over a decade. She has one daughter, Christy.[13]


LP Albums[edit]

  • Cool Sounds From Kansas City (1958)
  • The Most (1961)
  • Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye (1965)
  • The Second of Maye (1965)
  • The Lamp Is Low (1966)
  • A Taste of "Sherry!" (1967)
  • Step to the Rear (1967)
  • The Happiest Sound in Town (1968)
  • Marilyn Maye, Girl Singer (1970)

Hit singles[edit]

  • "Cabaret" (1966)
  • "Sherry!" (1967)
  • "When We All Get Together" (1967)
  • "Step to the Rear" (1967)[23]
  • "Til You Come Back" (1968)
  • "Feelin'" (1968)
  • "Think Summer" with Ed Ames (1969)

CD Albums[edit]

  • The Singing Side of Life
  • Marilyn Maye Sings All of Jerry Herman's Hello Dolly (1985)
  • Rapport: Marilyn Maye & Mark Franklin Communicate (2000)
  • Sounds of Maye (2001)
  • Maye Sings Ray (2005)
  • Super-Singer – A Tribute to Johnny Carson (2005)


  1. ^ Viagas, Robert (October 2017). "Marilyn Maye Helps Jazz at Lincoln Center Notch Its 30th Anniversary October 27–28". Playbill. Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Maye in October". Opera News. September 2010.
  3. ^ "Maye Time | TheaterMania".
  4. ^ a b Brewer, Carolyn (2021). Beneath Missouri Skies: Pat Metheny in Kansas City, 1964-1972. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press. ISBN 978-1574418231.
  5. ^ a b c Loudon, Christopher (October 31, 2011). "Marilyn Maye". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Marilyn Maye, proudly "old school"". CBS News. January 28, 2018. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  7. ^ "Singer Marilyn Maye".
  8. ^ "Photos of Iowa Gov. Robert Ray: Family and fun". July 8, 2018. Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  9. ^ Cramer, Richard (1992). What It Takes: The Way to the White House. New York: Random House. p. 912. ISBN 978-0394562605.
  10. ^ Lefkowitz, Dave (December 9, 2007). "Marilyn Maye". Dave's Gone By. 9:30 minutes in. TotalTheater.
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth (November 21, 2010). "Sondheim at Carnegie Hall". Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  12. ^ "Feinstein's/54 Below". Facebook. Feinstein's/54 Below. February 14, 2022. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  13. ^ a b Fessier, Bruce (January 14, 2016). "Kansas City jazz treasure Marilyn Maye now belongs to U.S." Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  14. ^ Billy Stritch. "Billy Stritch" (Interview). Interviewed by Goodsill. Sugarland, TX: City of Sugarland. p. 4. Archived from the original (pdf) on October 16, 2020. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
  15. ^ Berg, Chuck (October 3, 2010). "Review: Maye better than ever". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  16. ^ "Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  17. ^ Klopus, Joe (May 17, 2015). "Jazz Town: American Jazz Museum fittingly salutes singer Marilyn Maye in May". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  18. ^ Klopus, Joe (May 25, 2018). "Jazz Town: Star-studded concert will celebrate Jazz Walk of Fame inductees". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  19. ^ Miller, Sarah Bryan (July 27, 2013). "Marilyn Maye brings the party to the Sheldon". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  20. ^ Wild, Stephi (August 27, 2018). "Marilyn Maye Will Be Honored at the American Songbook Association's First Annual Gala". Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  21. ^ "Marilyn Maye". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  22. ^ "Photo Coverage: Marilyn Maye Debuts at Birdland". Broadway World.
  23. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 162.

External links[edit]