|Born||September 18, 1924|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 25, 1988 (aged 63)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Music producer, club manager, television producer|
Kay acted as a talent scout and as the musical director of several night clubs on the New York jazz scene in the late 1940s and 1950s. According to some accounts, during those years the Caucasian Kay would sometimes introduce himself as a fair-skinned Afro-American. As the artistic director of the Royal Roost (a jazz venue on 52nd Street) he succeeded in persuading the owner, Ralph Watkins, to hire Miles Davis' nonet - sometimes called the "Tuba Band" - with which Davis was pursuing a project that gave birth to the cool jazz movement later to be called Birth of the Cool. Kay befriended Davis and, during his later marriage to singer/actress Diahann Carroll, was for a time Miles' neighbor.
In 1949 he founded the jazz club Birdland (later, he would also open another jazz club, Le Downbeat, in Chicago). During the 1950s, Kay produced several musicians, including Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet. In the same period he married (1956–1963) singer/actress Diahann Carroll. Their daughter, Suzanne Kay, is a journalist and television author.
In 1963, Kay became the manager of the comedian Flip Wilson. The two formed the record label Little David Records, which featured comedy albums by Wilson, George Carlin and others. Kay was executive producer of the TV show The Flip Wilson Show.
Kay died of heart failure in Los Angeles in 1988.