The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will resume their quarterly program series, Nashville Cats: A Celebration of Music City Musicians, with a salute to singer Millie Kirkham on September 29. The in-depth interview will take place at 1:30 p.m. and is included with museum admission. It will also be streamed live at countrymusichalloffame.org.
Hosted by Bill Lloyd, the interview will include vintage recordings, photos and film clips from the museum’s Frist Library and Archive. Immediately afterward, Millie will sign limited edition, commemorative Hatch Show Print posters. Seating for the event is limited and program passes are required for entry.
A harmony singer, Millie’s high soprano vocals can be heard on many classic songs such as Eddy Arnold’s “What’s He Doing in My World,” Ferlin Husky’s “Gone,” George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” and many Elvis Presley recordings.
Born Mildred (Eakes) Kirkham, Millie grew up just outside of Nashville, played clarinet in the high school band and sang in the church choir. After high school, she started working for National Life and Accident Insurance where she joined the National Life and Accident Insurance Girls’ Glee Club. In 1946, she was hired as a secretary for WSM-AM’s programming director Jack Stapp.
Jack brought in singer Anita Kerr to compose musical arrangements and performances for WSM broadcasts. Millie and her husband, singer-drummer Doug Kirkham, were invited to join Anita’s octet. The group became a regular on WSM’s ‘Sunday Down South’ and other radio and television programs. The group began booking recording sessions and in 1954, Millie left WSM to focus on recording.
Millie collaborated with vocal quartet the Jordanaires for many years. In their first session, she sang harmony on Ferlin Husky’s recording of “Gone.” It was her performance on “Gone” that caught the attention of Elvis Presley. She went on to record with him for 18 years and contributed to some of his movie soundtracks, Vegas recordings and live performances.
Millie recorded with artists from across several genres, including Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Charley Pride and more. In 1981, she lent her voice to one of the greatest country songs of all time, George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Though Millie stopped recording regularly in the 1980s, she toured the U.S. and Europe with ‘Elvis – The Concert’ in the late 1990s and continues to occasionally step into the studio for a recording session or to perform with Ronnie McDowell.