Swing Shift Missies – Ladies who rocked 1940s and 1950s

The Chordettes -the quartet of Dorothy Schwart (lead), Jinny Lockard, Carol Buschman and Janet Ertel was one of the longest-lived vocal groups, with roots in the mainstream pop and soul of barbershop singing.

The Chordettes

Unlike most of their counterparts who needed record successes to get into TV and radio, they established themselves over the air and on the small screen, years before ever cutting their first record. The first huge hit was Mr. Sandman in 1954. Later on, they continued to chart, alternating between pop songs and ones with an eye on the rock market, including covers of the CoastersCharlie BrownPaul Anka‘s  Lonely Boy, and Dodie StevensPink Shoelaces. Leaving of Jinny  led to group’s breakup since they couldn’t find a replacement that they were happy with.

The group’s most remarkable quality seemed to be its survivability. Every time they were written off as another too-sweet-for-the-times female group, they would emerge with another hit, straddling the fence between the pop world and the emerging rock and roll audience. The Chordettes accomplishments were enviable (14 chart records and four top10s in 22 releases) and their professionalism and attraction were undeniable.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm

World War II provided female jazz musicians with unprecedented opportunities in the music industry, since many of their male peers were serving in the military. For the first time, female musicians in America consistently proved that they could play trumpets, saxophones, and drums with as much expertise as men.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first integrated all-female band in the USA, began in the rural junction of Piney Woods, Miss. in 1937, turned professional in 1941. and soon after gained national recognition. For nearly a decade, they crisscrossed America by sleeper bus  generating excitement and often breaking records set by the big name man-bands. The 17-piece swing group, which was led by singer Anna Mae Winburn, included such fine soloists as tenor saxophonist Viola Burnside and trumpeter Tiny DavisEddie Durham and Jesse Stone were among the arrangers.

While the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were successful, as they made two coast-to-coast tours in their bus, unfortunately, a few impediments remained in their way for the entirety of their touring career. As a racially mixed band, they fought a two-front war of their own- breaking both gender and racial barriers. For a great number of reasons, both known and purported, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm began their gradual disbandment after they returned from their European tour in 1946.

Sadly, many of all-female bands from the swing epoch were dropped from America’s national memory; but during feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, they regained a significant amount of popularity, particularly with feminist writers and musicologists who have made it their goal to change the discourse on the history of jazz to equally include both men and women musicians.

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