Howard Keel made a splash as the cheerful and virile leading man in numerous MGM musicals of the 1950s, but it wasn't until 1984 that he received the chance to record his first album as a solo performer. The opportunity came about thanks to his long-running role in the popular nighttime soap Dallas, where he played opposite Barbara Bel Geddes as matriarch Miss Ellie's husband, the silver-maned Clayton Farlow. The prominent role that he stepped into in 1981 put him back into the spotlight after a long absence. In addition to a new solo album, Keel also set up a series of concerts.
The baritone started life in Illinois as Harry Clifford Leek. He grew up in California, where his illustrious musical career had a lowly beginning. Keel was a singing waiter before taking employment at a Douglas Aircraft Corporation plant, where he sang for employees during World War II. Talent contest wins led to work with Rodgers and Hammerstein. He toured in the role of Billy Bigelow in Carousel. He also stepped in for Alfred Drake as Curley in Oklahoma on Broadway before opening in London. His time in England led to film work, and he debuted in 1949 in The Small Voice. Upon his return to Hollywood, Keel found his niche with lavish musicals that included Annie Get Your Gun, Showboat, Seven Bride's for Seven Brothers, Rose Marie, and Kiss Me Kate, among others.
Keel married three times. His marriage to Rosemary Cooper lasted from 1943 until their divorce in 1948. He wed Helen Anderson in 1949. The marriage produced three children and ended in divorce in 1970. That same year he married Judy Magamoll. The couple had one child. Keel served as head of the Screen Actor's Guild from 1958 to1959. His daughter Kaija was married for more than two decades to Edward James Olmos. ~ Linda Seida