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.

Shout, Sister, Shout – Ladies who rocked the 1920’s and 1930’s

The Boswell Sisters were an extravagantly gifted singing trio that graced the sweet, swinging sphere.  These darlings of radio’s golden age  were noted for their style of singing and the breezy arrangements that had a little bit of everything nice: abrupt changes in key and tempo, scat singing, Boswellese (a unique gibberish), hot breaks, some good old Southern hokum, imitated jazz horns, a smooth-as-syrup harmonic blend on flawlessly-phrased lyrics.

Boswell Sister

Their sound became emblematic of 1940’s girl groups, even young Ella Fitzgerald loved the Boswell Sisters, particularly idolizing Connie since she was deeply influenced by her phrasing.

The group got signed to Decca, but after just three records they broke up in 1936. while Connie continued to have a successful solo career as a singer for Decca.

The Historic New Orleans Collection Exhibition honoring the pioneer of female harmonizing- “Shout, Sister, Shout: The Boswell Sisters of New Orleans,” is opening on March 19th, 2014.

The Andrews Sisters- LaVerne, Maxen, Patty, started off their career as imitators of an earlier successful group, the Boswell Sisters, but soon propelled to create their unique sound with an evident trademark- lightning-quick vocal syncopations.

While the sisters specialized in swingboogie-woogie, and novelty hits, they also produced major hits in jazzballadsfolkcountry-western, seasonal, and religious titles, being the first Decca artists to record an album of gospel standards in 1950.

Their 1941 hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” can be considered an early example of rhythm and blues or jump blues.

Their versatility allowed them to pair with many different artists including recordings with most popular bands of the 40s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby and Woody Herman.

Andrews Sisters

The Andrews Sisters broke up in 1951. when Patty, after their parents’ deaths, joined another group, with her husband acting as her agent.

After many scandals and open feuding the trio got back together and continued until LaVerne’s death in 1967.  Patty was the last sister to pass away, in January of 2013 at the age of 94.

By the time they called it quits as a trio in 1950s, the group had amassed a phenomenal 113 chart singles, sold 75 million records, and recorded more than 1800 songs earning them 19 gold records and eight number ones and had appeared in 22 films.