Kay Finegan

Singer

Kay Finegan, a singer and music arranger of the big band era who later reinvented herself as one of New York’s top caterers, died April 22 in Lincroft, N.J. She was 95.

In her music career she worked with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Ted Fioritto. She called herself “the hyphen” in the Sauter-Finegan orchestra co-founded by her husband, Bill Finegan.

Born in San Francisco as Vivian Blessing, Finegan went out on her own as a teenager and began singing in speakeasies of the 1920s under the name Kay Ray. She caught the eye of wealthy benefactors who suggested she open her own club.

She met Bill Finegan in 1936, and plunged into the heady world of the big band era, becoming the band singer, manager and credited arranger with Finegan on many famous tunes including “Little Brown Jug.”

When she and Finegan divorced in the early 1960s, she was a grandmother in her 50s seeking a new career. She chose to become a caterer, leasing a small storefront on New York’s First Avenue.

She named the place Call Cuisine and every day she would feature a gourmet take-home dinner in the window that included a salad, entrée and dessert. Each order came in a china casserole which had to be returned, ensuring that customers would come back.

As her fame spread, New York’s elite would send limousines to her shop to collect their dinners. Among her apprentices was Patrick Terrail, who later started Ma Maison in Los Angeles.

At 70, she catered one last enormous party, then sold Call Cuisine, which is still on First Avenue. She began traveling full-time and, at 75, entered an around-the-world scavenger hunt.

She is survived by three grandsons and a great granddaughter.

More Scene

  • TBS 'Full Frontal with Samantha Bee'

    Samantha Bee, Molly Ringwald Discuss #MeToo, Morgan Freeman at 'Full Frontal' FYC

    Kay Finegan, a singer and music arranger of the big band era who later reinvented herself as one of New York’s top caterers, died April 22 in Lincroft, N.J. She was 95. In her music career she worked with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Ted Fioritto. She called herself “the hyphen” in the Sauter-Finegan […]

  • The Paley Center for Media Presents

    Endemol Shine's Cris Abrego Shares Hope for Bilingual Programming at Paley Center

    Kay Finegan, a singer and music arranger of the big band era who later reinvented herself as one of New York’s top caterers, died April 22 in Lincroft, N.J. She was 95. In her music career she worked with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Ted Fioritto. She called herself “the hyphen” in the Sauter-Finegan […]

  • 'Adrift' film premiere

    'Adrift' Team Talks Making a 'Female Superhero' on the Open Ocean

    Kay Finegan, a singer and music arranger of the big band era who later reinvented herself as one of New York’s top caterers, died April 22 in Lincroft, N.J. She was 95. In her music career she worked with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Ted Fioritto. She called herself “the hyphen” in the Sauter-Finegan […]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Why Brian Cox Says Wealthy Family Drama 'Succession' Is Both Timeless and Timely

    Kay Finegan, a singer and music arranger of the big band era who later reinvented herself as one of New York’s top caterers, died April 22 in Lincroft, N.J. She was 95. In her music career she worked with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Ted Fioritto. She called herself “the hyphen” in the Sauter-Finegan […]

  • Gracie Awards

    Rita Moreno Celebrates Female Empowerment at Gracie Awards: 'It's About Damn Time'

    Kay Finegan, a singer and music arranger of the big band era who later reinvented herself as one of New York’s top caterers, died April 22 in Lincroft, N.J. She was 95. In her music career she worked with Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers and Ted Fioritto. She called herself “the hyphen” in the Sauter-Finegan […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content