Mary Kaye

Mary Kaye

(January 9, 1924 – February 17, 2007)  Mary Kaye was a guitarist and phenomenal singer equal to Ella Fitsgerald or Sarah Vaughn, who was active from the 1940s through 1960s. Mary Kaye (born Malia Ka’aihue) descended from Hawaiian royalty in the line of Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, and was born into a show business family. She & her brother Norman Kaaihue appeared with their father Johnny Kaaihue from the time they were small children until she & Frank Ross along with Jules Pursley formed “The Mary Kaaihue Trio”.  When Norman was discharged & replaced Jules they renamed the partnership ” The Mary Kaye Trio”.  When Jules returned from military service he & Mary were married & he became their stage manager.

The Mary Kaye Trio is credited with founding the Las Vegas “lounge” phenomenon at the Last Frontier in 1953, an all-night party atmosphere where stars and common folk rubbed elbows in a freewheeling environment.

George Schlatter producer of Laugh-In, at the 75th Anniversary celebration of Las Vegas Entertainment announced “The greatest act ever to play Vegas was The Mary Kaye Trio” As a Vegas booking agent in the1950s, he recalls the Trios engagements at The Last Frontier “ by the third night you can’t move. They’re the biggest hit on the Strip, because at that point there was no Rickles there was no Louis Prima and there was no Shecky Green. The Trio became a favorite of the stars. On any given night, celebrities like Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., Betty Hutton, Milton Beryl, and Liberace rubbed shoulders with regulars at the groups show.”

Sclatter continued “The Mary Kaye Trio changed the history of Las Vegas. They were all over the room, & they were hysterical. Anybody who ever saw the act realized this was the most sound you ever got out of three pieces. And goddamn, they were funny!”

After the Mary Kaye Trio dissolved Mary worked solo, then with Frank & Norman’s blessing she tried starting another Trio. She later originated a line of Mary Kaye dolls & various business interests.

Mary was photographed with her partners Frank Ross & Norman Kaye of the Mary Kaye Trio, in a 1956 Fender promotional advertisement featuring a new Stratocaster electric guitar. It became known as “The Mary Kaye Strat.” .

A limited Custom Shop series Mary Kaye Tribute Strat was issued in 2005.  In 2007 a 57 Reissue Mary Kaye Strat was released for the 50th anniversary of the Stratocaster. She was inducted in the Musicians Hall of Fame, and with her incredible talent, she had no equal.

Mary died in a Las Vegas hospital of pulmonary disease on February 17, 2007. Her son Jay Kaye was also a musician, known as the ” Blue Messiah ” in Spain where he passed away in 2015. . Mary is survived by her daughter Donna,  her son Jeffrey & her grandchildren.