The Carol Burnett of Christian Entertainment
In a colorful bathrobe, fuzzy slippers and a wig with curlers, Kay DeKalb Smith hits the platform with a coffee pot in one hand and New Testament in the other. This peppy redhead wins audience chuckles with stories of chasing her daughters with a fly swatter, her dislike of cooking (“My family always knows when dinner is ready because the smoke alarm goes off!”), and the trials of hormonal ups and downs. She sings about balancing the checkbook, hot flashes and God’s love. She has been called by a pastor the “Carol Burnett of Christian Entertainment.”
Kay married husband Ed, small College President and former banker, in 1982. They now have two daughters and five grandchildren.
Perhaps Kay’s daughter Evin says it best, “Mom, if I ever lost you in the mall I’d know how to find you. I’d just follow the laughter!”
Kay is actively scheduled on church platforms, in banquet halls or at conventions in places from Weisbaden, Germany to Vandalia, Ohio. She credits her family with providing a good bit of her stand-up comedy material. “I was raised in one of the few functional families that are left,” she says laughing. “My parents experienced the joy of the Lord daily. My childhood home in Hartselle, Alabama, was one filled with laughter. My parents didn’t beat me. They laughed at me. We had our share of problems, but we loved each other unconditionally.”
Her parents and teachers encouraged Kay’s animated personality and impersonations. By age 16, she was performing at Hartselle’s “nightclubs.” “You know, the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs,” Smith deadpans, in characteristic Southern drawl.
From the beginning…
At 17, she wowed judges at a Miss Alabama Teenager pageant with her impressions of Shirley Temple and was second runner-up in the national contest. That year she was asked to sing/speak for a nationally televised Billy Graham Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama.
She became “Miss Birmingham” in 1973. The pageants gave her poise and stage presence. But her best education came at Opryland USA Theme Park in Nashville, where she performed two years as a singer, dancer and impersonator.
Kay moved to Nashville in 1974 and, for the next 10 years, she ministered in churches, sang/spoke in Associate Billy Graham Crusades, did radio, TV commercials, and volunteered at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where she performed room-to-room. In 1981 she was asked to sing for another nationally televised Billy Graham Crusade in Baltimore, MD.
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Franklin, TN 37068-0752