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'The Very Thought Of You': Nellie McKay Channels Doris Day

Nellie McKay on the <em>Ask Me Another </em>stage.
Josh Rogosin / NPR
Nellie McKay on the Ask Me Another stage.

Satin-voiced singer, adventurous songwriter and theaterprovocateur Nellie McKay has frequented NPR airwaves, but never before like this. Normal as Blueberry Pie, McKay's fourth record, was made in tribute to the legendary singer and actress Doris Day. So naturally, being a trivia show, we wanted to see just how much McKay knew about the icon.

McKay discovered Day's work in an unusual way. While in high school, she went to an animal rights protest at the Baltimore Aquarium, and afterwards, while waiting for the bus to take her back home to the Poconos, she happened to wander into a record store. Her eye caught a photo still from Romance on the High Seas, Day's 1948 film debut, and it was love at first sight. A bit of an old soul herself, McKay said she connected with Day's music, acting and life story immediately. "In gym class, I'd try to put [Day] on, and they all wanted to listen to Destiny's Child," she told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg.

While McKay has lent her voice to a previous episode of Ask Me Another, now it was her turn in the puzzle hot seat, and she was up for the challenge. To test the extent of her Doris Day fandom, we called upon a worthy opponent: Tom Santopietro, author of the biography Considering Doris Day. Together the two Day devotees demonstrated their savvy for her films, her phone demeanor and her shout-out in an indelible song by a little band known as Wham!

Plus, in the Web extra on this page, hear what music McKay listens to when she wants to relax, and why she brought a pair of leopard-print, "second-hand love cuffs" to give away to the grand winner as a prize.

Interview Highlights

On whether she uses iTunes

I don't have a playlist, because I abhor technology. I think it's done far more harm than good.

On the music (on vinyl) she listens to when she wants to relax

I was just in Mississippi, and I picked up some Stanley Turrentine, and some James Booker and a wonderful album ... about a British Pathé in the West Indies, and it goes into the whole history there from the '20s to the present. It's got a wonderful range of musical styles. It was great to travel through Appalachia listening to that African three-against-four rhythm. It was completely unapropos.

What's up with those handcuffs, Nellie?

Love cuffs. I got them at Goodwill. They're gently used. They still have the keys, which I think is quite rare.

In the video below, McKay performs the pop standard "The Very Thought of You," which Doris Day famously sang in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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