The Chordettes ©2004JCMarion


In the post war forties in the town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, four women got together and began vocalizing among themselves. Their early influences were The Modernaires, Pied Pipers, and The Weavers. The original members of the quartet were Janet Ertel, Dorothy Schwartz, Jinny Osborne, and Carol Bushman. Osborne's father at the time was national president of the Society for the Preservation of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America and their sound was similar to that nostalgic style of music, and the women chose the name The Chordettes for their group. They soon joined in competition with male foursomes in and around the Sheboygan area. The word was out about this unique quartet and they soon drew the attention of the music industry. They were natural performers and were soon invited to an audition for one of the top shows of the post war years - Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. In 1949 they were winners on the radio show, and Godfrey was so struck by the talent of this winsome quartet that he made them a permanent part of the cast for his daily and weekly shows. The Chordettes were now members of the cast known as the "Little Godfreys" along with at various times Frank Parker, Jeanette Davis, Marion Marlowe, Haleloki, Julius LaRosa, and The Mariners, an interracial male quartet. They followed the show onto the growing medium of television.

The Chordettes recorded a few sides for the Columbia Record label in the early fifties that did not sell and today remain extremely rare and obscure. Later on the orchestra leader and musical director of the Godfrey show, Archie Bleyer, formed his own record label called Cadence in early 1953. The first seven sides released by the label were all by Julius LaRosa. But soon Bleyer signed The Chordettes (along with other Godfrey cast members) to his label. He even married Janet Ertel in 1954. By this time Lynn Evans had replaced Dorothy Schwartz, and Margie Needham had replaced Jinny Osborne for a time. Their initial recordings for Cadence also went nowhere ( "It's You It's You That I Love" and "True Love Goes On And On" - Cadence #1239) but musical history was about to be made.

In the fall of 1954 just as the rock & roll revolution was about to explode all over America, an endearing bouncy up tempo tune called "Mister Sandman" was released on #1247. The sound of the record immediately captured the hearts and minds of mid fifties record buyers of all ages. It seemed that everywhere you went those fall days, the vocal chime effects and tight harmonies were in the background. The record was a massive hit which made Cadence Records a viable force in the recording industry for years (solidified by the signing of The Everly Brothers a couple of years later). "Mister Sandman" remained on the best seller charts for five months and held the number one position for seven weeks. It reportedly sold more than two million copies in the U.S. The Chordettes were on top of the musical world, but the euphoria did not last . The next two releases by the group did not sell - "Lonely Lips" on #1259, and "I Told A Lie" on #1267, and were followed in early 1956 by "The Wedding" (#1273) which barely entered the top one hundred.

In March of 1956 The Chordettes returned to the best seller charts with a cover of a top R & B tune - The Teen Queens "Eddie My Love" (#1284). The record got to the top fifteen and had a stay on the charts for more than two months. With their cover effort, The Chordettes joined The McQuire Sisters, The Fontaine Sisters, and others who found success with covering R & B hits. During the summer "Born To Be With You" on #1291 did even better becoming a solid top five seller and a four and a half month stay on the charts. Late in the year "Lay Down Your Arms" on #1299 was a top twenty seller that had a run of ten weeks on the best seller charts. Following a couple of failures ("Come Home To My Arms" on #1307, and "Echo Of Love on #1319) the Chordettes regained their hit making status with "Just Between You And Me" on #1330 which got as high as the number eight seller in the country and was a solid record for the group.

"Photographs" on #1341 did nothing, but in March of 1958 came the huge smash hit "Lollipop" (#1345) that duplicated the all encompassing success of Mr. Sandman four years before. The infectious hand clapping sing-along style was favored by all age groups and tastes in pop music at the time. Only The Champs "Tequila" kept "Lollipop" out of the number one spot. A solid three month charter and million seller, the record returned the Chordettes to the top of the music field. They tried next with a television theme song with "Zorro" on #1349 and did quite well with a top twenty seller that stayed around on the charts for two months. "No Other Arms, No Other Lips" on #1361 was a moderate seller in 1959 (top thirty in the country) and the next release did not sell - "A Girl's Work Is Never Done" on #1366. The last charted record by the quartet was during the summer of 1961 and was a movie song - the title tune from "Never On Sunday" on #1402 which was a two month charter and got as high as the number thirteen position.

The Chordettes called it quits in 1963 after more than fifteen years and produced two number one million sellers, four top ten hits, and nine chart records. They had a most unique sound and the strains of "Mister Sandman" are the perfect sound representing the early fifties in America (as was so brilliantly portrayed in the original "Back To The Future"). The Chordettes are part of America's musical heritage and remain unforgattable.

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