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Marilyn Maye

Born: April 10, 1928, Wichita, Kansas.

Marilyn Maye McLaughlin was born April 10, 1928, in Wichita, Kansas, the only child of Kenneth and Lyla McLaughlin. When she was young the family moved to Topeka where her father owned a drug store and worked as a pharmacist. When Maye was three her mother taught her to sing and dance, and at the age of nine she began taking lessons with Rosamond Nyman, a classical voice instructor in Topeka. She participated in talent contests and made weekly appearances on WIBW 580 Radio in Topeka.

Maye’s parents divorced and she moved with her mother to Des Moines, Iowa. In high school, Maye continued to appear on local radio shows. After graduation she found work as a vocalist at a Louisville, Kentucky, radio station, followed by night club bookings in Chicago. In the mid-1950s she began an 11-year engagement with the Colony, a supper club in Kansas City, Missouri. There she recorded her first album, Marilyn the Most. In the mid-1960s Steve Allen was host of a late-night syndicated variety and talk show. He invited her to appear on his show and as a result she signed with RCA and released her second album, Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye.

Nightclub performances and television show appearances highlighted Maye’s career through the late 20th century. She appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 76 times. Maye has performed with numerous symphonies including Des Moines, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Philly Pops, and Tulsa. In recent years Maye has been a popular repeat performer at Michael Feinstein’s Lowe’s Regency.

She has released a total of seven albums and 34 singles. Her song “Too Late Now” was included in the Smithsonian Institution’s best American compositions of the 20th century.

Maye was named an official jazz legend by the American Jazz Museum. She received the Kansas Arts Commission’s Distinguished Arts Award in 2008 and the Mabel Mercer Award in 2010. She was named Kansas Native Sons and Daughters 2012 Kansan of the Year.

Entry: Maye, Marilyn

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2013

Date Modified: February 2019

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.