View All

Kat McCord (February 18, 1952-October 28, 2015)

My baby sister, better known to fans of her early music as Kathy, was beautiful and talented and possessed a good heart. We were born eight years apart, making us of different generations; I, a war baby and she a boomer.

As were many of her generation, she was the quintessential flower child. She even went to Woodstock, and stayed for half a decade, among the artists, musicians and other free thinkers who gravitated to that rural spot in upstate New York. Her friends there included everybody from Levon Helm and Richard Manuel of the Band to Bobby Charles. Her boyfriend during that period was Michael Lang, one of the promoters of the famous festival at Yasgur’s farm. She sang with these people and many were happy to play on her recordings.

As a child, she heard my record collection blasting from my room, all the 50s greats I bought after hearing them played by Alan Freed: Chuck, Fats, Richard and Frankie Lymon. In her teens, she gravitated toward her era’s icons: Dylan, the Beatles, etc.

Locked away in her room, she made paintings and wrote poetry. After reading some of her poems, I suggested she might want to try writing songs and showed her structure and even wrote a couple with her to get her started. She caught on right away.

My songwriting mentor Chip Taylor heard her and wanted to record her. The result was a lone 45 on his Rainy Day label, which ceased operations not long after.

I was leaving Atlantic and was being courted by Creed Taylor, who’d just recorded my song ‘Good Morning Blues’ with George Benson. I suggested Kat to him and he agreed to make an album with her, the first on his new CTI label. She was 16 and despite making a fine record, it didn’t sell but became a cult item over the years.

In 1978 she made an album for Charles Koppelman’s Manhattan Records, a tax shelter label that was never meant to be successful. It featured some of the top New York session players and one of the songs, ‘Baby Come Out Tonight,’ wound up on Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” album. She was dating saxophonist Dave Sanborn and sang on his albums.

Discouraged, she began hanging out at the studio of my friend Joe Renda, with whom she recorded the legendary politically incorrect ‘Eugene,’ as by Crazy Joe & the Variable Speed Band. Kat can be seen in the video on YouTube.

After that, her career was pretty much over. She moved to Florida where she remained the rest of her life. In 2010, Ace Records contacted me about reissuing her CTI album. We gathered a bunch of her unreleased recordings and it turned into a double disc set, which provided her with the first royalties of her lifetime as well as a much-needed ego-boost.

Health problems, due to a lifetime of smoking and other poor choices, resulted in the cancer that ultimately took her life much too soon.

Billy Vera

Selected releases