Back now with DAY TO DAY from Union Station in Kansas City.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Oh, yeah. The Kansas City sound from the jazz great who made his name here, the late Count Basie.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: And if there are any regrets about the Kansas City jazz era - the '30s and '40s - it's that so many of the greats are gone now. So it's good to encounter Myra Taylor and discover she is still at it.

Ms. MYRA TAYLOR (Jazz Musician): I like swing music. I like a beat. And I learned that right here in Kansas City, you know. All those musicians in those days when I first started out, honey, they had a beat that you would recognize any place.

CHADWICK: Myra Taylor is 90 - 90. She was a teenager when she started tap-dancing in clubs around 18th and Vine, where Kansas City style began.

(Soundbite of song, "Dig It")

Ms. TAYLOR: (Singing) Dig, dig, dig out right. Dig, dig with hit hand stride. Dig, dig, dig our band. If you want to get a (unintelligible) dig it.

CHADWICK: That's Myra performing "Dig It," which she wrote for the Harlan Leonard band back in the '40s. She was making $25 a week. She sang in satin evening gowns she bought for $7 - cute, she says, but real cheap.

Ms. TAYLOR: So my finger got caught into a string and I kept singing and just kept wrapping around, thinking it was going to break any minute, you know, break off. And it didn't. It just kept on wrapping around my finger. And so by the time - when it did stop, that was just about the time I finished singing.

I walked off the stage and the people just kept on clapping and hollering more, more, more. And I was desperate to go through the door and they just kept hollering. Once I turned around - when I turn around, there was the whole ruffle down on because it was one long ruffle. And it was right at the microphone, you know, that's what they were laughing about. But I thought that, you know, it's because they really did like me.

So that I could go back out of there. Waved at them and went out through the door. I've had a lot of funny things happen to me in life.

(Soundbite of song, "Dig It")

Ms. TAYLOR: (Singing) Dig, dig, dig this tune.

CHADWICK: Myra Taylor, she's done everything, she's forgotten nothing. She hands out show business tips like hiccups. She would sing hits the way Ella Fitzgerald did, she told me. And then on a gig in Texas, another musician talked about what she was doing.

Ms. TAYLOR: You sing and then people will come to you and say, ooh, you sound so much like Ella. But you ought to hear Ella sing that song. I said, what? He said, yes, that's what they do. He said you're building Ella up. You're not building yourself up; you're building up Ella.

So, when I left there, I went to Buffalo, New York, and the man heard me sing in the only radio station. So he had me to come up and do an audition. He's going to give me a radio show, you know. And I was stupid enough to go up and sing "Stairway to the Stars" - and as close to Ella as I could get. When I come up, I was all smiling. He looked at me and said, had I wanted Ella, I would have hired her. And that was the end of that. So I said no more anybody. I'm just going to be me.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. TAYLOR: (Singing) Get your coat, get your hat.

CHADWICK: And that's what she's done with her own club in Frankfurt, Germany for years and on tours throughout Africa and Asia and all over this country. Myra is back in Kansas City now, where she began, performing still with three other singers who call themselves the Wild Women of Kansas City.

Ms. TAYLOR: Of all my traveling, all the things that I've - places that I've been and things that I've done, I've been happier with them than anybody I've ever been around in my life.

CHADWICK: And we're live in Union Station with this weekend treat. Myra Taylor and the Wild Women of Kansas City live. Ladies, take it.

(Soundbite of song)


Alex and our DAY TO DAY crew have been in Kansas City the last three days, thanks to our friends at member station KCUR, celebrating their 50th anniversary. Happy Birthday. Special thanks to KCUR staffers Laura Ziegler, Bill Anderson and Patty Cahill. At Union Station, thank you Mike Smith, Lisa Ovenoff(ph), John Kirkpatrick(ph).

And that jazzy version of the DAY TO DAY theme we've been hearing this week, it was especially arranged for our Kansas City visit by Tim Whitmer, and performed by Tim and the KC Express. And thank you to the Wild Women of Kansas City: Geneva Price, Lauri Tucker and the incomparable Myra Taylor.

(Soundbite of song)

CHADWICK: Wild Women of Kansas City. For Madeleine Brand at NPR West, I'm Alex Chadwick at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri. Let the trains and the music roll. Wild Women, go.

(Soundbite of music)

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