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Nashville Vocalist and Music Arranger Behind 'Nashville Sound' Dead at 94

Nashville Vocalist and Music Arranger Behind ‘Nashville Sound’ Dead at 94

Anita Kerr (Image: Wikipedia)
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GENEVA (CelebrityAccess) – Nashville vocalist, music arranger, and producer Anita Kerr who played a crucial role in creating what is known as the Nashville Sound, died Monday (October 10). Her daughter Kelley Kerr confirmed her death but did not provide a cause. She was 94.

Kerr and her vocal group, the Anita Kerr Singers, sang background vocals for several country music performers in the 1950s and ’60s, creating what is known as the Nashville Sound that helped elevate the careers of Jim Reeves and Skeeter Davis, among others.

Kerr earned the nickname “Little Miss Nobody” because the Anita Kerr singers typically went uncredited on many albums, a nickname she did not mind having, according to the Washington Post. The Kerr Singers were so much in demand that they regularly worked 15 – 18 hour days.

Anita Jean Grilli was born in Memphis, TN, on October 13, 1927 – her mother was a radio show host, and her father owned a grocery store. She began piano at age four and took up the pipe organ in fourth grade. After school, she began arranging music for a singing group she formed with other female classmates and sang on the radio with her mother.

She married Al Kerr and had two daughters after moving to Nashville. Kerr had experience in classical, orchestra, harmonizing, and arranging; in Nashville, many producers tapped her for her expertise. Kerr worked in radio for Red Foley and linked up with Chet Atkins and other producers who had a vision for country music that didn’t include fiddles – a staple of the sound at that time.

She divorced Al Kerr in 1965 and married Alex Grob, who hailed from Switzerland and whom she met on tour. They moved to Los Angeles, where she worked on movie scores and orchestra arrangements. Kerr was also choral director on the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” TV show before moving to Switzerland in 1970.

Country Music Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young said, “Anita Kerr helped Nashville achieve world-class stature as a music center through her roles as a gifted arranger, producer, and leader of the lush vocal quartet the Anita Kerr Singers. At a time when women rarely led recording sessions, she worked alongside key producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley, and was intimately involved in shaping the hits of Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, Brenda Lee, Jim Reeves, and many more that gave the world the enormously popular Nashville Sound. Her voice and her creativity expanded the artistic and commercial possibilities for country music.”

She is survived by her husband, Alex Grob, two daughters, Suzanne Kerr Trebert and Kelley Kerr, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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