Ketty Lester is an actress and singer who scored with one big top ten hit in the early 1960's.
At her birth in 1934 in Hope, Arkansas (the hometown of former U.S. President Bill Clinton) her name was Revoyda Frierson. Her father was a farmer and she had 14 brothers and sisters. Young Revoyda developed a love for music when she sang in the choir at school and at church. She later won a scholarship to study music at San Francisco State College, which led to regular work as a performer at that city's Purple Onion nightclub, in the North Beach area. It was a place where many acts that went on to prominence in the entertainment industry got their start in the 1950's. She adopted the stage name Ketty Lester.
One accomplishment seemed to lead to another for the talented singer with a soft voice. She joined a successful tour of Europe and came back to the USA and toured with Cab Calloway's band. She developed a smooth nightclub act and moved to New York City for a time.
She returned to California, moving to Los Angeles in 1955, and made an appearance on You Bet Your Life, a show hosted by Groucho Marx, in late 1957. Eventually she signed a recording contract. Ketty revived a song that had been a hit for Dick Haymes in 1945 titled Love Letters. Her interpretation was different from the earlier hit, and she had a giant hit with Love Letters in early 1962. It was a million seller, going to #5 in the USA and Great Britain, as well as #2 on the R&B chart. Ketty Lester came to the attention of the general public.
She recorded other songs, although none of them reached the top forty; among them were But Not for Me, You Can't Lie To A Liar, Once Upon A Time, Where Or When, When A Woman Loves A Man, Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, Fallen Angel, When I Fall In Love, and This Land Is Your Land.
Ketty also had a rather extensive career as an actress, which picked up for her more in the 1960's and 70's. She had the role of Helen Grant in the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Perhaps her best known role was as schoolteacher Hester-Sue Terhune in Little House on the Prairie. In 1994 she portrayed Aunt Lucy in the film House Party 3.
She also appeared in dozens of popular television shows and movies over the years, including The F.B.I, That Girl, Green Acres, Here Come the Brides, The Rookies, Blacula, Sanford and Son, Uptown Saturday Night, Love American Style, The Streets of San Francisco, Marcus Welby, M.D., Hunter, The White Shadow, Happy Days, Hill Street Blues, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, St. Elsewhere, Quantum Leap, and L.A. Law. Her most recent appearance on film was in the television show Getting Personal in 1998.
Over the years many artists have recorded Love Letters; among the more successful versions were those by Alison Moyet, Elvis Presley, and Etta James. Ketty Lester is retired and living in Los Angeles as this is written in 2015. She is most closely associated with her beautiful 1962 million seller, Love Letters.
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