Good times, bum times, Marilyn Maye has seen them all but, damn it, she's still here. She's not only outlasted most of her 1960s contemporaries -- who still remembers Abbe Lane or Joanie Sommers? -- but she also can still belt out her signature songs as if time has stood still. Maye stylishly survived every twist and turn of the fickle entertainment business with the help of savvy mentors, beginning with local bandleader Warren Durrett in the 1950s.
Durrett was Kansas City's answer to Tommy Dorsey during the swing era. By the time he hired Maye, he was writing and producing local TV and radio jingles. Maye recorded the tunes for clients that, she says, "ran the gamut from banks to bread to bug sprays."
On Friday, Maye joins the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra to pay musical tribute to the late Durrett, who died last year at age 81. She'll be mixing some of her songs with a few classic Durrett arrangements. "He was the consummate musician and a great arranger," Maye says.
After Maye left Kansas City, having been discovered by Tonight Show host Steve Allen, she worked with a more famous musical arranger, Peter Matz, who had overseen Barbra Streisand's early hits. Matz did the arrangement for Maye's version of "You're Going to Hear From Me," which Babs recorded this year on her new Movie Album. But it was hometown girl Maye who made that 1966 tune a classic.
You'll hear from her, all right.