by Mark Wirtz

(click image to enlarge)

L-R: Clare Torry,
Johnny Mercer, Kay.

L-R: Kay, Mark Wirtz,
Maggie Stredder.

In the middle of it all at a
Tony Bennett session.

L-R: Sunny Leslie, Susie Glover,
Kay, James Last (top), Lyn Cornell.


It may come as a surprise to the many of you who normally consider me excessively verbose, that I must confess that, when it comes to Kay Garner, words fail me. Not because I don't have much to say about her (rather the opposite is true), but because Kay has for so many years been such a widely respected and appreciated legend, loved by everyone with whom she worked or came into contact, that professional accolades appear redundant, and personal revelations are too personal to broadcast. (No, nothing "juicy". Just, well, out of respect for Kay's privacy.)

Despite my awareness of Kay since way back in the late 1960s - when she became part of Madeline Bell's famous session singers team and Dusty Springfield's first-call back up vocalist - the first time I met her personally and worked with her was only a few years ago during my "Love Is Eggshaped" album recordings at Phil Chapman's studio, when Maggie Stredder introduced Kay to me as her then current "Ladybirds" side-kick.

The project was the Mood Mosaic segments of the album, whose original sound I was trying to emulate three decades after the fact. While Maggie and I have a 40-year history and feel like family, remarkably, Kay and I clicked instantaneously and without any overtures felt like old friends. Moreover, even though Kay was not on the original Mood Mosaic sessions many years ago, she copped the MM feel and spirit with such intuition and vitality, that what came through the mic felt like deja vu! Especially since both she and Maggie had managed to cheat time by, even in their mature years, not only sounding, but looking so radiant and youthful and sexy, I had a hard time concentrating on the work at hand. I was so taken by Kay's extraordinary talent and voice, that I invited her on the spot to sing the solo passages on Anthony River's "Sanctuary" track, on which she kicked ass like a rambunctious teenage rock'n'roller!

Little did I suspect back then, let alone know, that Kay's boundless energy and flawless projection was hiding advanced, severe and acute emphysema, having to stop for breath after each step on a flight of stairs. All those demons vanished when she stood in front of a mic.

During the following months, our friendship grew, defiantly transcending the distance between the States and the UK, and she gradually revealed to me her secret struggle with ever-progressing, terminal, health problems, while outwardly continuing to write, perform live and in the studio, and enjoy life to the fullest, right up to literally only weeks before her sad demise, NEVER losing her self-deprecating sense of humour, wit and poise - the ultimate, consummate, trooper!

Kay's artistic legacy remains ours to share, as does the resonance of the joy, love, and generous kindness she gave to those of us whose life, heart and work she touched. What is tragic, is that Kay is not recognized, remunerated, or celebrated, for the countless recorded solo-performances she gave us that became global, even classic, hit records, yet her identity cursed to obscurity by the greedy agenda of ruthless record producers who condemned Kay to roam the airwaves to this day as a ghostly, anonymous, phantom.

There is no one who can fill Kay's shoes. The music business has lost a profound artist and musician. I have lost a precious friend.