Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Kay Saunders-Palmer: There will never be a greater artist's manager...EVER!

The late Kay Saunders-Palmer, the greatest Hollywood Manager of all times. 
Kay Saunders-Palmer and Motown Recording Artist Kenny Smith, circa 1993.  Photo by Karen A. Parker.

She managed lots of artists from the home of Associated Booking Corporation in Beverly Hills, CA., as its executive secretary, started by Joel Glazer on a hand-shake with Louis Armstrong.

Ms. Saunders other great talents included being a very talented "voice-over" artist for movies and radio. She was the first Secretary for the newly created SAG organization with her membership card being  the number "0003" registered member of the guild.

Saunders singing career came to an abrupt end, when she suffered a major appendicitis attack inside the Capitol Records studio and had to be ambulance to the hospital.  With the recording date still open, one of the background singers stepped forward to complete the recording set by the name of Margret Whiting, and as they say, the rest is history.

It was sometime around 1934, after the release of "A Star Is Born" with Janet Gaynor and Fredric Marche that lite a spark into the young singer's heart to head for Hollywood.  It was just like in the movies, the hunger and the desire to come to Hollywood and become a star or just somebody in the industry.

Saunders had may talents including writing music charts for bands and songwriters.  As a secretary, she could type an impressive 85 words per minute and take dictation at about the same speed.  All of this were at the time when no electric typewriters were on the marketplace.

Hopping a bus in the dead of winter from Philadelphia and heading to sunny Southern California with her then young boyfriend in tow by the name of Leroy Jacobwitz.  It was almost frame for frame as in the movies, when the couple got to Hollywood.  No job prospects, did not even know the outlay of the land, but they knocked on a lot of doors.

Kay got a job at a temporary agency that got her into the typing pool of 20th Century-Fox Films where she immediately showed the typing world she was know joke when it came to organizing and delivering the products in record time.  Saunders was brilliant at putting together Resumes and story narratives for presentation and show for the producers. 

It was in the later part of those days, that 20th Century-Fox had a very talented lady on their hands and asked her to help with a musical overdub to one of their soundtracks that would lead to many of such jobs in the musical shows that were being filmed at that time.

However, the boyfriend was having no luck in landing any jobs there and was very disappointed in the process and wanted to return back to Philadelphia.  The young Leroy Jacobwitz was hellbent on keeping his family name in the business.  For some reason, this was holding him back.  Saunders insisted that he had to change his name and just like the scene in the movie of "A Star Is Born", Saunders began to play off his name and came up with one that Leroy would not resist.

So in the early morning after many hours of matching phrases and name re-writes, Saunders presented to Leroy his new name for the industry:  Mr. Lee J. Cobb. As they say in the business, the rest is history. The more success that Mr. Cobb found, the couple soon found themselves getting more distance and before one knew it, it was several years and may other lovers and interests later.

Kay married Mr Richard Palmer, then vice-president of promotions at Decca Records, thus the last name of Palmer.  Palmer is responsible for signing a young group from Texas by the name of Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

Kay's audition for many parts on the screen left her on the cutting floor and little offers of anything else.  She continued as a "torch" singer for various clubs in the Hollywood area, until she walked in the small office to one Joel Glazer who was answering the telephones and making a complete mess of everything insight.  Saunders had seen a "Help Wanted" sign on the front door and walked in.  After setting there for several minutes, Saunders just walked up to the front desk and took a seat and began to help take messages and handing out flyers to visitors who were there.

After several hours, the smoke had cleared and it was a small silence in the office, when Glazer noticed that this person that taken over the office.  Turning to her, Glazer asked her how much she wanted an hour to work for him?  The deal was very simple, a small salary with stock options and a percentage of the artist fees.  Usually, an agency took 10 to 15 percent of the performance, of which Saunders received one percent.

At the age of 84 years old, Saunders got her chance to portrait "Rose" in "Titanic".  Making the short list of two names, Kay's chance of being "Rose" was not to be. 

Saunders work load was impressive with artists that included Lee Rogers, Bernadette Bascom, Kenny Smith, Frank Sinatra, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Woods Empire, The S.O.S. Band, Grand Thief (Yarbough and Peoples), Merrell Fankhauser, Thelma Gracen, Margret Whiting, Frankie Beverly and Maze, The Sylvers, Connie Stevens, Bobby Caldwell, Louie Bellson, Little Richard, Bob Hope, Pete and Connie Condole, Carolyn Cline, Les Elgar, Four Tops, Shirley Bassey, One Way, The Playboy Clubs in Japan all at the same time, just to name a few back in the day.

As Songwriter, Record producer and recording artist for Motown Records, this writer was very thankful and graceful to Ms. Saunders for her great business sense and artist product modeling of that day and time.

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