Kenneth Lorin Darby was born May 13, 1909 in Hebron, Nebraska.
In the 1930’s Darby was a singer with the quartet The King’s Men.
Darby and “The King’s Men”, recorded several songs with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra in the mid-1930s, and were the featured vocalists on the Fibber McGee and Molly radio program from 1940 through 1953.
The King’s Men were the first singing quartet to appear in a Hopalong Cassidy western, THE RENEGADE TRAIL.
In 1939, Darby sang the vocals for the Munchkinland Mayor in The Wizard of Oz.
Ken Darby Singers
Darby then formed his own choral group, The Ken Darby Singers.
They sang backup for Bing Crosby on the original 1942 Decca Records studio recording of “White Christmas.”
They also sang on the first album ever made of the songs from The Wizard of Oz, in 1940, a film on which Darby had worked as part of the King’s Men. However, the album was a studio cast recording, not a true soundtrack album, although it did feature Judy Garland.
Darby then became a composer and production supervisor for Walt Disney Studios, and was choral and vocal director on the 1946 Disney film classic, Song of the South.
Darby then worked as lyricist and arranger at 20th Century-Fox during the 1950s.
He was Marilyn Monroe’s vocal coach for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953, and There’s No Business Like Show Business in 1954.
Ken Darby was the musical director on the 1956 film Love Me Tender and the principal composer of the Elvis Presley title song “Love Me Tender.” The song was adapted from the Civil War era song “Aura Lee”.
Ken Darby spoke of the movie:
“I was told the period was 1864,and the challenge was to provide Elvis Presley with a series of songs which would be ingenious to the period and yet satisfy the demands of his following for Presley-type-music. I was made aware of the potential emotional impact of a sweet ballad if sung by Presley as his theme song. I brought a lot of songs in and played them and studied them. In the end there was a small selection,five melodies.”
Darby signed the rights to “Love Me Tender” over to his wife, Vera Matson, whose name appears as co-lyricist and co-composer with Elvis Presley.
Ken Darby was awarded two Oscars; one for best scoring of the 1956 musical “The King and I,” which he co-adapted with Alfred Newman, and in 1959 for “Porgy and Bess,” co-adapted with Andre Previn.
Then Darby again teamed with Alfred Newman in 1967 for the movie “Camelot,” and won an Oscar for best musical adaptation.
Darby also won a 1960 Grammy Award for Best Soundtrack Album, Original Cast, Movie or Television with the song Porgy and Bess (shared with Andre Previn).
Ken Darby died January 24, 1992.
Now WE know em