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Collection Number: P0062

Collection Title: Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Collection of Photographs, circa 1906-1985

This collection has use restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


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Size 7.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 335 items)
Abstract Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser were both graduates of the University of North Carolina and long-time residents of Chapel Hill. James Kern Kyser (Kay Kyser) was born in 1905 in Rocky Mount, N.C. He attended the University of North Carolina, 1923-1927, where he was the leader of the cheerleading squad. He is best known as a big band leader and as the "Ol' Professor" on the radio show Kollege of Musical Knowledge. In 1944, Kyser married model, actress, and singer Georgia Carroll of Blooming Grove, Tex., who had joined the radio show in 1943. In 1951, he and his family retired to Chapel Hill, N.C. Through the Kyser Foundation, Kyser gave scholarships to students of music and dramatic art at the University of North Carolina. He was also instrumental in improving health care in North Carolina, starting the state's public television station, and establishing a highway safety program. Kyser was active in the Christian Science Church, directing the church's radio and television broadcasting division at the Boston headquarters in the 1970s, lecturing, and serving as national honorary president in 1983. The collection comprises approximately 335 images related to the lives of Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser. Most of the materials depict Kay Kyser's musical carreer before he returned to Chapel Hill.
Creator Kyser, Georgia Carroll.



Kyser, Kay.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
For copyright and use restrictions contact the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of materials in in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Collection of Photographs #P0062, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Georgia Carroll Kyser donated the materials to the North Carolina Collection in December of 2006.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

James Kern "Kay" Kyser was born 18 June 1905 in Rocky Mount, N.C., to Paul Kyser and Emily Royster Kyser, both pharmacists. His mother was the first registered female pharmacist in North Carolina. His uncle, Edward Vernon Howell, opened the pharmacy school at the University of North Carolina in 1897 and served as the dean until his death in 1931. His cousin, Vermont Connecticut Royster, was the editor of the Wall Street Journal from 1958 to 1971. Another member of the Royster family, Julianna Royster Busby, established Jugtown Pottery in Moore County, N.C., in 1920.

Following his family's lead, Kyser entered the University of North Carolina in 1923. At school, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and was active in the Playmakers Theatre. He was also the school's head cheerleader, establishing the cheering section known as the Carolina Cheerios. Kyser's bandleader career began in 1926, when he took over as the leader of the school orchestra. He graduated with high honors in 1927. In 1937, Kyser wrote "Tar Heels on Hand," which became the school's fight song.

After graduation, Kyser and his band hit the road in pursuit of a musical career. The band had little success for several years and was barely able to make ends meet. In 1934, the band received its big break when they became regular performers at the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago. In 1937, the band began to get the audience involved by asking questions about music. Originally known as Kay's Klass, the performance went nationwide on NBC in 1938 as the Kollege of Musical Knowledge, when the American Tobacco Company bought the show for Lucky Strike. The Kollege of Musical Knowledge ran on NBC from 1938 to 1950, first on radio and then briefly on television. The show performed weekly to nearly 20 million listeners, with Kay, the "Ol' Professor," questioning contestants who won money and a diploma. The Kollege of Musical Knowledge had many members during its run, including Harry Babbitt, Mike Douglas, George Duning, Ish Kabibble (whose real name was Merwyn Bogue), Georgia Carroll Kyser, Sully Mason, and Ginny Simms. The act was the first to perform for troops during World War II. Kyser and the orchestra also appeared in several movies, including That's Right, You're Wrong and Carolina Blues.

In 1944, Kyser married singer Georgia Carroll, who had joined the Kollege of Musical Knowledge the year before. The couple had three children: Kimberly, Amanda, and Carroll. In 1951, Kyser quietly retired from show business, moving his family to Chapel Hill, N.C. No longer in the Hollywood spotlight, he became active in the Chapel Hill community. Through the Kyser Foundation, he gave scholarships to students of music and dramatic art at the University of North Carolina. He was also instrumental in improving health care in North Carolina, starting the state's public television station, and establishing a highway safety program. He was also active in the Christian Science Church, directing the church's radio and television broadcasting division at the Boston headquarters in the 1970s, being a guest lecturer, and becoming the national honorary president in 1983.

Kyser died in Chapel Hill on 24 July 1985 and is buried in Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

Georgia Carroll Kyser was born 18 November 1919 in Blooming Grove, Tex. A fashion model, actress, and singer, she is perhaps best known as "Gorgeous" Georgia Carroll as part of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge. She appeared in three films: Around the World, Carolina Blues, and Thousands Cheer. She retired from performing in the 1940s and died in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 2011.

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The collection comprises approximately 335 images related to the lives of Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser. Most of the materials depict Kay Kyser's musical carreer before he returned to Chapel Hill.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, 2006

Encoded by: Patrick Cullom, 2011

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