Kenny Colman was one of Canada’s best jazz singers ever

Performing alongside greats like Frank Sinatra, Colman was a talented singer who missed his big break

by Michael De Santis

Canadian jazz crooner Kenny Colman, the subject of the upcoming documentary Cool Daddy, began his show business career in 1959 when he moved to New York City. While he spent his days working for The Merv Griffin Show as a production assistant, he spent his evenings lounging around jazz clubs and piano bars, eventually picking up the microphone at many of the city’s iconic venues.

One night, Colman was discovered by American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan and was soon on his way to a debut performance at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. During his time in Vegas, Colman befriended fellow lounge singer and idol Frank Sinatra, who praised his singing as “glorious, a loving experience, totally musical.” Sinatra becomes a lifelong mentor, taking Colman under his wing and getting him gigs all over the world.

Over the next few years, Colman would sign a record deal with Epic Records, and go on to appear on all of the great talk shows of the time, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Lou Rawls Show, The Steve Allen Show and The Midnight Special. In the mid-1960s, he even had his own variety television show on the CBC.

However, jazz was on its way out by the time Colman was just starting to make his way in, and as he would say about show business, “Timing is everything.”

In 1964, Colman’s first record was released on the same day the Beatles would release “Introducing… The Beatles” in the U.S. Also that year, at the same time music promoter Sid Bernstein arranged for Colman to sing on Johnny Carson, he brought the Beatles to Shea Stadium, which Colman knew signalled the end of an era that he was desperate to be part of.

“When the Beatles started to come in ’64, jazz was getting less airplay and less exposure. So my career was starting on a low note because all the record companies were getting rid of singers,” remembers Colman.

Colman would continue to perform around the world and put out records, but as he admits, nothing hit. “I had a lot of triples and doubles, but I never hit a home run ... You’ve got to hit the one with the home run.”

While Colman spent decades singing around the world with many legendary performers, he always seemed to be on the periphery. Though he may not be widely remembered today as one of the jazz greats, his influence lives on. Much like Sinatra became an inspiration for Colman as he started out, Colman would himself become an inspiration to a young Canadian jazz singer, Michael Bublé, who would attend Colman’s concerts in the ’90s just as his own career was beginning.

Watch Cool Daddy on the documentary Channel.

Learn more about Kenny Colman, at Kenny`s Jazz Pad.

Available on CBC Gem

Cool Daddy

documentary Channel