U.S. singer, actor Kaye Stevens dies

U.S. singer and actress Kaye Stevens, who was discovered by Ed McMahon and performed with the Rat Pack, has died. She was 79.
Sammy Davis Jr. and Kaye Stevens perform on a TV show on Jan. 6, 1967. Stevens has died at a central Florida hospital at age 79. (Associated Press)

U.S. singer and actress Kaye Stevens, who was discovered by Ed McMahon and performed with the Rat Pack, has died. She was 79.

Stevens died Wednesday at the Villages Hospital north of Orlando, Fla.,  following a battle with breast cancer and blood clots, according to friend Gerry Schweitzer.

Stevens, who performed for U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, released singles of songs such as You Light Up My Life, You Brought Me Back To Love Again and Friends are Forever.

Born July 31, 1933, in Pittsburgh, she got her start as a drummer and singer in Cleveland while still a teenager. She later married bandleader and trumpet player Tommy Amato and the two performed together on the U.S. club circuit.

That’s where she was discovered by McMahon, who introduced her in Las Vegas and ensured she was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Her big break as a singer came when she was playing a lounge at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Debbie Reynolds became ill and was unable to perform in the main room. Stevens filled in and was a hit.

She had solo shows at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room in New York City and performed with Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop.

Stevens made frequent TV appearances on Hollywood Squares, The Dean Martin Show, Toast of the Town and Match Game. She had a five-year role as Jeri Clayton on daytime soap Days of Our Lives.

She appeared in films including The Man from the Diners’ Club, The New Interns and Jaws 3-D.

In the last 20 years of her life, Stevens was involved in Christian ministry and performed only Christian and patriotic music. City officials have named a park for her in Margate, Fla. , where she was a longtime resident.

Amato predeceased her and they had no children.

 

With files from The Associated Press