The Boswell Sisters Biography

The Boswell Sisters were Connee Boswell (3 December 1907, Kansas City, Missouri, USA, d. 11 October 1976), Martha (b. 9 July 1905, Kansas City, Missouri, USA, d. 1958) and Helvetia, known as Vet (b. 20 May 1911, d. 12 November 1988). Born into a white middle-class family and raised in New Orleans, the sisters broke with convention by developing a close interest in black music and forming themselves into a vocal group. Among the first white female groups to sing in this manner, their extensive musical skills, which derived from childhood lessons, ensured that what they did was free of gimmickry. Martha played piano, Helvetia played banjo, guitar and violin, while Connee was remarkably multi-instrumental.

While in their early teenage years, the sisters began working on radio and, concurrently with Bing Crosby, quickly discovered the confidential style of singing made possible by intelligent use of microphones. The sisters’ early exposure to jazz in their home town ensured that they worked with a marked feeling for this kind of music, and they often recorded with noted jazzmen of their day, among them Bunny Berigan, Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey. The sisters became enormously popular on radio and in films and through records and personal appearances across the USA and in Europe. In the mid-30s all three women married and, with only Connee wanting to continue singing, they broke up their act. In the following decade the groundwork laid by the Boswell Sisters was successfully exploited by numerous all-female singing groups, of which the Andrews Sisters came closest to the originals.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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