Kathryn Elizabeth Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia on May 1, 1907. It was at an early age that she first fell in love with singing and dancing. In 1926, while performing locally in theaters and nightclubs, a New York City show producer discovered her talent. She was first featured on Broadway in the musical comedy, Honeymoon Lane. Four years later, in the year 1930, she appeared in two other musicals, Hit the Deck and Flying High.
In 1930, Kate joined forces with Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who subsequently went on to become her partner and manager. It was Mr. Collins who put her on the radio and helped her to become an immediate success. Not long after, Kate broke the record for longevity at the renowned Palace Theater.
In 1932, because of her radio success, Kate was offered a cameo role in Paramount’s musical film, The Big Broadcast. This is where she sang “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” which later became her signature piece. In 1933, Kate had the opportunity to play herself in her own movie, Hello Everybody!, with her co-stars being Randolph Scott and Sally Blane. It was then, ten years later, Kate made a guest appearance in the Irving Berlin picture This is the Army, where she sang God Bless America.
Back in 1926, Kate began making records. Some of her biggest hits were: River Stay Way From My Door (1931), The Woodpecker Song (1940), The White Cliffs of Dover (1941), I Don’t Want to Walk Without You (1942), There Goes That Song Again (1944), Seems Like Old Times (1946), Now is the Hour (1947), and How Great Thou Art (1965).
Kate was also very successful with her radio shows. Her radio variety hour, The Kate Smith Hour, was the most popular of its kind and aired weekly from 1937-1945. During that same time, Kate also had the Number 1 daytime radio show called Kate Smith Speaks.
But Kate’s success did not stop there. She was also triumphant when it came to television. From 1950-1954, The Kate Smith Hour aired every Monday-Friday afternoon. NBC then chose to give her a primetime show on Wednesday evenings called The Kate Smith Evening Hour due to her success with her prime-time show. In 1960, Kate had her final TV series. It was a weekly half-hour musical series with CBS called The Kate Smith Show.
Kate’s career came to an end on a high note when she sang her version of “God Bless America” for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. This inspired the team to go on to win two successive Stanley Cups (1974 and 1975). Kate was named Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1976. And on July 4th of that same year, Kate sang “God Bless America” one last time. After a long battle with diabetes, she passed away on June 17, 1986 in Raleigh, NC.