Kirkham was born in Nashville, Tennessee. She performed in high school bands in the early 1940s before graduating to session work.
Her soprano voice has been featured on the who's who in both pop and country music, most notably Elvis Presley beginning with the 1957 recording session that garnered the classic, "Blue Christmas" alongside the Jordanaires.
Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires has been quoted as saying that Presley liked Tubb but did not want to recut his song. Ordered to do the song, he told the band to play and sing as badly as possible.
"He argued and cussed with them for a couple of hours and finally told us to make the most horrible background we could, so they wouldn't record it," Stoker was quoted as telling a Nashville newspaper.
The backup singers laughed and sang a whooping "woo-woo-woo-woo-woo" in the background.
"They said have fun -- do something silly," backup singer Millie Kirkham said in a CNN interview.
Presley chopped words into syllables, singing, "I-I-I'll have a ba-lue Chrrrr-istmas ..."
"When we got through," Kirkham was quoted as saying, "we all laughed."
It turned out to be a repeat No. 1 hit for New York songwriters Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, who also wrote for pop bands.
Kirkham's strong, clear soprano could be heard on many of Elvis' pop, rock, gospel and country recordings such as The Wonder Of You, Surrender, How Great Thou Art, Polk Salad Annie, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Don't, Just Pretend, (You're The) Devil in Disguise, C.C. Rider and many others. She also sang with Elvis on many of his movie soundtracks and performed with him on stage in the 1970 documentary, Elvis: That's the Way It Is in Las Vegas.
A longtime fixture in the music community, her credits include numerous radio and television appearances, collaborations with the Jordanaires and the Anita Kerr Singers along with her countless recording sessions in Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas and Nashville.
Her distinctive voice can be heard on classic recordings by Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, Pete Fountain, Bob Dylan, Perry Como, Carl Perkins, Rosemary Clooney, Little Richard, Reba McEntire, Brook Benton, Tammy Wynette, Vic Damone, Paul Anka, George Jones, Sonny James, Patti Page, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Arnold, Loretta Lynn, Jim Reeves and of course Elvis Presley to name a few.
While in her eighties, she performs regularly across the country with Jordanaires paying homage to those classic songs.
In 1998 and 1999, she toured with "Elvis The Concert" in both the US and Europe which featured many of the original musicians Elvis had recorded and toured with throughout his career.
In February 2008 she appeared in "Nashville celebrates Elvis at the Ryman" alongside George Klein (Emcee), Pat Boone, David Briggs, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Wanda Jackson, Wynonna Judd, Ray Walker of the Jordanaires, Ronnie McDowell, TG Sheppard, BJ Thomas and former members of The Stamps Quartet
Millie Kirkham Discography Tracks
- 116 Vocals
- 10 Instruments & Performance
- 4 Writing & Arrangement
- 2 Featuring & Presenting
|SP 5020||Elvis Presley||Clambake and 4 more… Elvis Presley - Kissin' Cousins & Clambake & Stay Away Joe (CD, Comp, RM)||RCA, BMG Nederland BV||SP 5020||Netherlands||1996||Sell This Version|
|Elvis Presley||What Every Woman Lives For and 9 more… Elvis Presley - Frankie And Johnny & Paradise Hawaiian Style (Comp)||RCA, BMG Nederland BV||Japan||1994||Sell This Version|