The McGuire Sisters Biography

This close-harmony vocal group, popular in the 50s and early 60s, comprised three sisters, Christine (30 July 1929, Middletown, Ohio, USA), Dorothy (b. 13 February 1930, Middletown, Ohio, USA) and Phyllis (b. 14 February 1931, Middletown, Ohio, USA). While in their teens the sisters sang with church choirs, and won an amateur talent contest at their local cinema for three consecutive weeks. After singing on their local radio station, the McGuires had their first big break, entertaining at army camps and hospitals during a nine-month tour in 1950/1. They then played club and radio dates in Cincinnati before moving to New York in 1952, and successfully auditioning for the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts contest. They subsequently became regulars on the show, and also appeared for eight weeks on singer Kate Smith’s top-rated radio programme. Signed to the Coral label, they had their first minor hit in 1954 with ‘Pine Tree, Pine Over Me’, in collaboration with Johnny Desmond and Eileen Barton. During the rest of that year they had further successes with their version of the Spaniels’ R&B hit ‘Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight’, followed by ‘Muskrat Ramble’, ‘Lonesome Polecat’ and ‘Christmas Alphabet’. In 1955 the sisters had their first million-seller with another cover version, ‘Sincerely’, originally recorded by the Moonglows. The McGuires’ version stayed at number 1 in the USA for 10 weeks, and accelerated their breakthrough into the big time in clubs, theatres and on television.

They sang on the Red Skelton Show and the Phil Silvers Show and appeared at the Waldorf Astoria, the Desert Inn, Las Vegas and the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. They made their first visit to London in 1961, and played a season at the Talk Of The Town. Their other hits, up until 1961, included ‘No More’, ‘It May Sound Silly’, ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, ‘He’, ‘Moonglow And Theme From Picnic ’, ‘Delilah Jones’; ‘Weary Blues’ (with Lawrence Welk), ‘Every Day Of My Life’, ‘Goodnight My Love, Pleasant Dreams’, ‘Sugartime’, ‘Ding Dong’, ‘May You Always’ and ‘Just For Old Time’s Sake’. When the McGuires’ sweet style was overtaken by the harder sounds of the Crystals, Shirelles and Supremes during the 60s, they turned to cabaret, and eventually disbanded. Phyllis continued solo, appearing regularly in Las Vegas and other cities. In 1985 the McGuire Sisters re-formed and, in the following year, undertook a national tour, stopping off at Bally’s Reno to headline in Don Arden’s lavish revue Hello, Hollywood, Hello. Their well-received act continued into the 90s, leaning heavily on their old catalogue, along with more contemporary material from Cats and Les Misérables, and an a cappella version of ‘Danny Boy’. In January 1986, Murray Kane, their personal manager and arranger since 1952, died in Las Vegas. He was responsible for writing the arrangements that won the sisters a spot on the Arthur Godfrey Show, their first break in New York. Prior to that, Kane had worked with Fred Waring, and had been a member of the Crew Chiefs, Glenn Miller’s vocal group during World War II.

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