Sister Acts From The Interlude Era -


Let's Harmonize : The Marlin Sisters©2004JCMarion


The Marlin Sisters are a dimly remembered part of the pop music explosion of the post World War II years in this country. Not very much is known about them, but on record they appeared three times on the national best seller charts in the year 1948. "You Can't Be True Dear" was a big tune during that year and the version by The Marlin Sisters was good enough to break into the top twenty in sales during the summer of the year. Accompanying the Marlins on the vocal was a young and then unknown singer from Philadelphia named Eddie Fisher. The record was released by Columbia Records on # 38211. The flip side of the record also did well among record buyers. It was a cover version of another big hit from the year called "Toolie Oolie Doolie" (also known as the "Yodel Polka" ) which hit number thirty on the best sellers list. A follow up recording by the Marlin Sisters was again a cover version of a popular hit - "My Happiness" which was a top twenty five seller in the country on Columbia # 38217.

"That Wonderful Boy Of Mine" and "The Wedding Samba" was recorded for Columbia on # 38265 in late 1948. In 1949 The Marlin Sisters made two recordings with vocalist and New York television personality Ted Steele. The first of these was "I Know I Know I Know" and "Let's Harmonize" on Columbia # 38604, and was followed by "Itty Bitty Polka" and "I've Been Floating Down The Old Green River" on # 38607. In the spring of the year the Marlin Sisters were part of a huge national seller when they provided the vocals on the tune "Blue Skirt Waltz" recorded for Columbia on # 12359 by Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks. This traditional polka song remained on the national charts for six months getting into the top ten in sales. It wound up selling more than two and a half million copies. Other Columbia recordings by The Marlin Sisters were "Hurry Hurry Hurry" and the standard polka "Trambalanka" (# 12407), "Potato Chips" and "Wee Willie Waltz" (#12411), and "Milton Berle Polka" and "Merry Go Round Waltz" (# 13410).

In 1951, The Marlin Sisters were on a number of different record labels. For Mercury they recorded "Bell Bottom Polka" and "The Tennessee Warbler" on Mercury # 70036. For London Records there was "Mockingbird Hill" and "The Girl I Left Behind" on # 851, and "Music In My Heart" and "The Metro Polka" on # 945. For Decca they recorded another polka tune called "Jack On St. Clair Polka" with Eddie Habat and his Orchestra on # 45136. For Decca's subsidiary label Coral, the Marlins recorded another chart hit during the summer of 1951 with The Pinetoppers instrumental combo called "Lonely Little Robin" which was a two month mainstay on the hit parade and topped out at number fourteen in the country. They later recorded a seasonal side with The Pinetoppers on the songs "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Ting-A-Ling-A-Jingle". Also for Coral were the songs "My Little Green Parrot" and "Valley Of Contentment" on # 60570.

In May of 1951 The Marlin Sisters recorded a number of songs with the big band of Ralph Marterie for Mercury that later turned up on the LP album called "Dance Band In Town" on Mercury # 20066. Among the vocal tracks by the Marlins included on the album were "Castle Rock", "Alice Blue Gown", "September Song", "Alone", and "Beautiful Ohio". The sisters also recorded songs in Yiddish with Nat Spencer and the band of Sam Medoff. Some of these tunes appeared in the LP "Variety Yiddish Theater" for Banner. So for a period of five years The Marlin Sisters were a part of the popular music scene in America. They vocalized in a great number of styles, and some of their recorded efforts were quite successful. However, for the most part they are seldom remembered now, and further personal information on the vocalists is almost impossible to find. But they, like so many others, were a part of that musical moment in our history that we like to call the Interlude Era.

The DeCastro Sisters©2004JCMarion


The sisters DeCastro were Peggy, Babbette, and Cherie, and first set foot in the United States in Miami during the mid forties. They were said to be from Cuba, but Peggy claimed to be born in the Dominican Republic. However they developed their Latin musical act and soon became acquainted with Carmen Miranda (thought to be Brazilian but in reality from Portugal). Once settled in the U.S., their act came across as a Latino version of the Andrews Sisters. They brought a lot of comedy into their act which made them big favorites in the Miami Beach club scene. After they established their performing credentials in Florida, the girls became steady performers in Las Vegas during the early nineteen fifties. They were approached by Fabor Robison of Abbott Records which was trying to break away from a country music format. They agreed to record for the label, and their first effort produced "It's Love" and "Teach Me Tonight" on Abbott # 3001 in August of 1954. The supposed 'A' side "It's Love" was not getting much airplay until listeners got to hear the flip side and soon the Sammy Cahn tune "Teach Me Tonight" took off. It began to sell and was soon the object of a number of cover versions including Jo Stafford, Dinah Washington, and Joe Williams with Count Basie. Suddenly the mostly unknown label had a monster hit on its hands. Now the de Castro Sisters were a hot commodity and bookings and interest in the act hit the roof. "Teach Me Tonight" was a huge national hit right at the time that the rock 'n roll explosion was taking over the face of American pop music. Their record remained on the best sellers charts for an incredible five months, and only Eddie Fisher's "I Need You Now" kept it out of the number one spot in October of the year. They didn't know it then, but that very change in the sound of pop music would make them a "one hit wonder" for the rest of their career.

Besides the recording field, the sisters ten years of experience as club performers was only enhanced by having one of the top selling records of the decade. They followed up their hit with "I'm Bewildered" and "To Say Your Mine" on Abbott # 3002. Their next release for Abbott was the novelty tune "Boom Boom Boomerang" on # 3003 with Thurl Ravenscroft (the bass voice of "Tony the Tiger) which garnered some airplay and sales for the trio. The Abbott label made it four straight releases by the DeCastros with "If Ever I Fall In Love" and a Johnny Mercer swing era tune "Cuckoo In The Clock" on # 3004. By mid 1955 the sisters were becoming mainstays on the Las Vegas club circuit, while the recordings for Abbott continued. "It's Too Late Now" and "Give Me Time" on # 3011 was followed by the seasonal "Snowbound For Christmas" on # 3012. In late 1955 the strangely named "Rocking And Rolling In Hawaii" was coupled with "Cry Baby Blues" on # 3014, and one last Abbott release "Cowboys Don't Cry" on # 3019.

Without providing another blockbuster hit, the de Castro Sisters moved on to become one of the enduring performers in Las Vegas. They continued to record throughout the fifties, but their main output was their stage act which was now more than a decade in development. The trio made a number of records for RCA Victor following their stay at Abbott. Among them were "Don't Call Me Sweetie" and "It's Yours" on RCA # 6661, "I Never Meant To Hurt You" and "I Hear A Melody" on # 6774, "Where have You Been My Love?" and "That Little Word Called Love" on # 7028, and "What A Relief" and "Take Care Of Me" on # 7177. From there the DeCastro Sisters moved to ABC Paramount Records in the late fifties. It was at this time that Babette decided to call it a career and leave the trio. Her place was ably taken over by a cousin of the sisters, Olgita DeCastro Marino, and the trio continued. "Who Are They To Say" and "When You Look At Me" was released on ABC # 9932, and in 1959 an updated version of their one enduring hit "Teach Me Tonight (Cha Cha)" on # 9988. They also recorded for Capitol with "Red Sails In The Sunset" and "Bells" on Capitol # 4537, and the LP albums "The DeCastro Sisters Swing With Billy May" on LP # 1402, and "The DeCastro Sisters Rockin' Beat" on LP # 1501.

Cherie remains the lone survivor of the popular trio. Babette passed away several years ago, Olgita her replacement in the group died in 2000, and Peggy passed away earlier this year (2004). Their music lives on in a CD released by Germany's Bear Family label called (what else?) "Teach Me Tonight", and contains more than thirty tracks of all the essential recordings of The DeCastro Sisters. This provides a good overview of their music and is one more precious memory of the nineteen fifties.

 

The Bermuda Girls : The Bell Sisters©2004JCMarion


Our second "sister act" were known as the Bell Sisters, even though they were Cynthia and Kay Strother. As a professional partnership they used their mother's maiden name for the career ahead. They achieved recognition from their appearance on a television show in October of 1951. The show was called "Search For A Song" and was hosted by Los Angeles radio and television personality Peter Potter. Potter also was host for a program called "Jukebox Jury" that began in 1948. The show "Search For A Song" was very much in the same theme as "Songs For Sale" and "Talent Scouts", two other programs from the early nineteen fifties. On that October evening, The Bell Sisters sang a song which was written by then sixteen year old Cynthia called "Bermuda". The song and the performance resulted in such sudden publicity, that within a few days Henri Rene, West Coast representative of RCA Victor Records, had the Bells record the song initially to be used as a song demo. Rene liked the girls version so much that a brand new arrangement was written and the sisters recorded the song as featured vocalists with an orchestra led by Jack Pleis that featured Sy Zentner and Ray Coniff in the trombone section.. The flip side of "Bermuda" was a tune called "June Night" and was released in mid-November of 1951 on RCA # 4422.

The recording first entered the pop charts the first week of January 1952, and eventually remained among the national best sellers for four months. It charted as high as number seven in the country and was a million seller. A cover version by Ray Anthony for Capitol also had some success. The Bell Sisters next recording for RCA Victor was a cover of the Sunny Gale-Eddie Wilcox Derby Records hit "Wheel Of Fortune" backed with "The Poor Whip-Poor-Will" on # 4520. This time Jack Pleis was on piano and Rene was the conductor. Other covers were by The cardinals for Atlantic, and the biggest pop version by Kay Starr for Capitol. Even with all the competition, the Bell Sisters version was a top ten seller across the country and had a three month run on the hit parade. Red Saunders "Hambone" (the original featured Delecta "Dee" Clark as one of the "Hambone Kids") was the next record by the sisters. They recorded their version with Phil Harris & his orchestra. The flip side was "Mama's On The Warpath" for RCA # 4584. From late march of 1952, "Hambone" was a top twenty seller and had a stay of almost two months on the best sellers.

During this time in addition to the recordings, the Bells appeared at a number of musical variety shows for various groups such as a special show for California Girl Scouts along with Lucy & Desi, Debbie Reynolds, and others. In may there was the annual police benefit along with Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Gene Autry, and others, and as a headline attraction at the San Diego County Fair. Television appearances included the shows of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Dinah Shore. Through 1952 they made many appearances with Bing Crosby on radio, and there was the inevitable talk of motion pictures. Meanwhile the records continued.

In late march of 1952 "Boo Hoo" (a Carmen Lombardo hit from the thirties) and "Rutza Rutza" were released by RCA on # 4665. This time the record barely charted, and the followup "Wise Little Echo" and "Hang Out The Stars" on # 4844 with Henri Rene again conducting. "There's A Ship Coming In" and "If'n" released in September on RCA # 4961 did not chart and the next recording session resulted in a seasonal release recorded with Spike Jones & His City Slickers on the tunes "Socko The Smallest Snowball" and "Barnyard Christmas" on # 5015. A few days later in late September "Piece A-Pudding" and "Hi-Diddle-Diddle" (a tune by noted R & B writer Rudy Toombs) were released on RCA # 4993. There was one further release during the year by The Bells - "A Fool Such As I" and "I'm Teaching My Dolly To Pray" on # 5122. "Fool" was a country hit for Hank Snow and a pop hit for Jo Stafford, but most remember the huge seller of the tune by Elvis & The Jordanairs in 1959.

In 1953 The Bell Sisters appear in two films. The first "Cruisin' Down The River" starred Dick Haymes, and the Bells vocalized on "Father Dear Father". The second film was called "Those Redheads From Seattle" where they sing "Take Back Your Gold". Cynthia Bell plays the girlfriend of pop singer Guy Mitchell, and also performs a song and dance routine with pop singer Teresa Brewer and Rhonda Fleming. The song from the film "Take back Your Gold" is released along with "Heartless" on RCA # 5433 in August. That was the last of the Bell Sisters recordings for RCA Victor. After 1953 the Bell Sisters would do charity benefits and military tours (such as Korea), but soon retired from performing and became teachers and raised their families.

The memories remain from the first notes of "Bermuda" from all those years ago that bring a smile as you recall the name "The Bell Sisters" and it doesn't get any better than that - EXCEPT - there is an excellent CD for Jasmine called (what else ?) "The Bell Sisters - The Bermuda Girls" that features close to sixty tracks by The Bells which includes all the essentials plus much much more. Much of the information for this article was found on the Bell Sisters web site, keeping the memories alive by a dedicated family member. Please visit bellsisters.com and learn so much more about the life and times of these wonderful performers.

The de John Sisters©2004JCMarion


The sisters Julie and Dux DeGiovanni were born in Chester, Pennsylvania, and in their early years had dreams of stardom as singers. They also dreamed about following another vocal group from their hometown, The Four Aces, to fame and fortune. They helped out in their parents dry cleaning business as well as other after school jobs and activities. Soon they developed a local following and got the attention of a record scout for Columbia Records subsidiary label Epic. They soon were ready to record and Epic set up the session with arranger and conductor O.B. Masingill who had worked for the label with Roy Hamilton. They now were known by their anglicized name (de John) and soon recorded "Should I Run?" which was released by Epic on # 9009. They then recorded an upbeat tune that the sisters had written called "(My Baby Don't Love Me) No More" which was released on Epic # 9085. In December of 1954 the record got into the top twenty five sellers in the country and their career took off. They made many personal and television appearances during the mid fifties and much was made of physical differences between the sisters ( "look - regular and king sized", etc.) that provoked laughs at the time, but were personally cruel.The de Johns recorded "A Kiss And A Rose" made famous in R & B circles by The Orioles on # 9055, "D'Ja Hear What I Say" on # 9097, "Pass The Plate Of happiness Around" and "He Loves Me" with Dougherty's Cafe Singers on # 9108, and "C'est La Vie" on # 9131. In 1956 they recorded the seasonal tunes "The Only Thing I Want For Christmas" and "That's How Santa Claus Will Look This Year" on Epic # 9133.

The de John Sisters wrote a great many of the songs they recorded expanding their musical talents. As the rock 'n roll age took hold, the demand for their type of pop music ebbed and they began to tailor their music for a more adult audience. They continued to record with "The Man With The Blue Guitar" and "Hotta Chocolatta" on # 9145, and "In My Innocence" and "Big D" on # 9172. By the late nineteen fifties they had been shuffled back to the main label Columbia Records for "Mu Cha Cha" and "Mah Little Baby (Shortnin Bread)" on Columbia # 40799, and "Don't Promise Me" on # 40843 in 1957. There was a record for United Artists with "Yes Indeed" and "Be Anything (But Be Mine)" on # 213, and finally a remake of Nat Cole's mid forties tune "Straighten Up And Fly Right" and "The Wrong Guy" for independent Sunbeam Records on # 106. Not much more was heard from the de John Sisters on record, and the memories might have dimmed over the years. But - a Collectables CD called "The Complete de John Sisters has twenty eight tracks by the duo, all of the essential recordings for Epic included, to give the listener a great insight into the talent and style of these mid fifties pop music performers. It is a worthy musical legacy of the Interlude Era.

to next page . . . . . . .

back to title page . . . .