One of the more interesting minor figures in rock of the early 1950’s who never had a hit but hung around for awhile and later developed an acting career that kept him on the fringes of the spotlight.

He was born Jesse Kennedy in Tennessee in 1925 and grew up fast and large, reportedly close to three hundred pounds as an adult, though pictures show he wasn’t fat, just tall, broad shouldered and solid as an oak.

He got his start singing professionally with Jay McShann in the late 1940’s on Capitol but in the early 1950’s made his move to rock with Tiny Bradshaw where he displayed his penchant for female impersonation, at least locally, by using falsetto to contrast with his own baritone on the same songs, billing himself as Big Tiny Kennedy.

It was a gimmick and not a very good one, though maybe it went down better in person where his size would be a joke unto itself. He went out on his own at this point and landed at Trumpet Records but his first session was deemed a waste, as he was paired with blues guitarist – and the label’s hottest property – Elmore James.

So Lillian McMurphy sent him to Memphis where Sam Phillips cut more typical rock sides including “Strange Kind Of Feeling” which became something of a signature tune for him. Since nothing became a hit however he drifted into club work, getting a reprieve when RCA decided to again try and capitalize on rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1950’s by instituting a rock-based subsidiary label called Groove, which typically looked for artists like Kennedy, older singers (now thirty) with absolutely no long-term upside but who could give the impression they were serious about this endeavor.

Not surprisingly Kennedy cut another version of his best single from Trumpet, but there was no way it was going to make a bigger impression three years later and the rest of his sides were bluesier in nature than was recommended in this day and age. After that he disappeared from the scene only to return to the spotlight in the late 1960’s in the film Fireball Jungle in which he sang in a nightclub scene and write the title song. As the film was shot in Florida we have to assume he was still performing around there at this point.

A decade later he showed up on screen again – reportedly – in another Florida based film, Mr. No Legs, but it’s a wild sub B-grade film that few outside of Quentin Tarantino have seen to confirm or deny Kennedy’s presence.

Whatever his fate, in the movie or in music, Kennedy was one of many artists with just enough talent to keep working, but not enough to have a chance at lasting success.

TINY KENNEDY DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(King 4537; May, 1952)
What was obviously developed by Kennedy as a visual routine, wherein he plays the flirtatious female customer lusting for the 300 lb. paperboy whom he also portrays, is lost in translation on record, even if he’s fairly credible in both roles. (4)

(King 4547; June, 1952)
Another female impersonation by Kennedy that tries and fails to be funny, largely because the joke is entirely about a man singing as a female, whereas if it were an actual woman singing the same lines the song itself wouldn’t have much humor. (2)

(Trumpet 187; December, 1952)
Finally a performance he can be proud of as Kennedy shows he can deliver a song well in his own voice while the top notch Memphis sessionists churn effectively behind him on a song whose anachronistic references are simply a minor drawback. (6)

(Trumpet 187; December, 1952)
Kennedy’s lethargic semi-whispered vocal makes no sense to the story, which is hardly a riveting drama unto itself, and the bluesy touches via the sparse track with guitar as its main feature is hardly invigorating, leaving the rooster they touted on the label as a silly afterthought. (2)