The Lennon Sisters

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Lennon Sister
Lennon Sisters in 1971 (top) and in 1955. 1971, from left: Kathy, Janet, Peggy and Dianne; 1955, from left: Janet, Kathy, Peggy, and Dianne
Lennon Sisters in 1971 (top) and in 1955.
1971, from left: Kathy, Janet, Peggy and Dianne;
1955, from left: Janet, Kathy, Peggy, and Dianne
Background information
OriginVenice, California, United States
GenresTraditional pop
Years active1955–present
LabelsBrunswick, Coral, Dot, Mercury, Atlantic, Ranwood, Heartland, Maryco
WebsiteLennonSisters.com
MembersKathy Lennon

Janet Lennon

Mimi Lennon
Past membersDianne Lennon
Peggy Lennon

The Lennon Sisters are an American vocal group initially made up of four sisters from a family that had seven sisters in all (including infant Mary Frances, March 5, 1953 – June 20, 1954) and five brothers. The original quartet consisted of Dianne (born Dianne Barbara; aka DeeDee; December 1, 1939), Peggy (born Margaret Anne, April 8, 1941), Kathy (born Kathleen Mary, August 2, 1943), and Janet (born Janet Elizabeth, June 15, 1946). All 12 Lennon children were born in Los Angeles, California.

For thirteen years, from 1955 to 1968, the group appeared regularly on The Lawrence Welk Show (receiving union scale wages) before having their own television variety show, called Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters with Jimmy Durante. After their show was cancelled, they partnered with Andy Williams to create a successful Las Vegas residency, which lasted a decade. In 1999, younger sister Mimi (born Miriam Theresa, October 16, 1955) replaced Peggy upon the latter's retirement. DeeDee has also since retired. The current line-up of the Lennon Sisters is a trio consisting of Kathy, Janet, and Mimi. They continue to tour around the country and appear annually with their Christmas show at The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

The Lennon Sisters were 2001 inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Their parents married in early 1939. Their father, William Herbert Lennon (1915–1969), worked as a milkman for many years before getting a job at a local golf course. Their mother, Isabelle Emily "Sis" (1919–2005), remained at home to care for the needs of her very large family. Sis was the daughter of Reina Ysabella Alvarez Denning and Danforth Denning.[1] Their ancestry was a mixture of Mexican, Spanish, German, and Irish. Isabelle's maternal grandfather, Pablo Alvarez (1857–1905), was born in Santa Ana, California, and her maternal grandmother, Margarita Camacho (1864–1938), was from Wilmington, California. Pablo's great-great-great-grandfather, Bernardo Salgado De Oliberos, was born in San Andrés, Spain.[2]

During their formative years, the family, which included two parents, 11 children, and one grandmother, lived in Venice, California, in a modest two-bedroom home. They were and are devout Roman Catholics and attended the Church of St. Mark, which is part of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Most or all[clarification needed] of the children attended Catholic school. Throughout the Lennon Sisters' career, their faith has had a major influence in both their lives and their careers. Many of their songs are either hymns or of a religious or spiritual nature.[3]

Career[edit]

The quartet made its television debut on The Lawrence Welk Show on Christmas Eve 1955.[4] A high school classmate, Larry Welk, son of Lawrence Welk, brought them to the attention of his father. Welk was at home, sick in bed, when his son brought the sisters in to sing for him. Welk was so impressed that he immediately booked them for that week's show, where they were a mainstay until they left to start a career of their own in 1968. The quartet was a trio from 1960 to 1964 after DeeDee married and left the group; she rejoined in 1964. Peggy sang the high harmony, Kathy the low harmony, and Janet and DeeDee sang the middle and lead harmonies. Peggy also specialized in barbershop, or counter-harmony, singing, taught to her by her father (who performed during the Big Band Era in a quartet with his own three brothers). The girls idolized Patti Page's multi-track vocal sound, feeling they achieved something close to her smooth blend in their Dot recording of "Stars Fell on Alabama". Kathy was especially fond of Connie Francis, evident in her solo recording of "Malaguena", which showcased her impressive vocal range. The sisters made no secret that they were huge fans of the innovative, intricate musical stylings of both The Andrews Sisters and The Mills Brothers.[5]

Their first hit, "Tonight, You Belong to Me", reached No. 15 on the charts in 1956. In 1961, their single "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)" (Dot 16255) reached the top of the charts in Japan, although making it only to No. 56 on Billboard in the United States. It was the lone No. 1 single of their career, turning out to be their all-time highest-charting record. Although much of the group's fame was based on their television appearances, they also recorded frequently for Dot Records in the 1950s and 1960s, producing a dozen albums, featuring their interpretations of well-known standards such as "Among My Souvenirs", "Moon River", and "Twilight Time". Some of their best-known recordings included "Scarlet Ribbons", "Greensleeves", and Schubert's "Ave Maria". A themed LP titled Dominique featured the Lennon Sisters with their musically talented siblings and cousins performing a variety of 1960s folk songs, including "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "If I Had My Way (The Sermon of Samson)", as well as the title track. They recorded briefly for Mercury Records after leaving Dot, focusing on more contemporary pop/light-rock fare, such as "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Never My Love". Their three most popular albums were Lawrence Welk Presents The Lennon Sisters: Best-Loved Catholic Hymns (Dot); Christmas with The Lennon Sisters (Dot); and Noel, their Christmas album for Mercury Records. Their full-bodied, homestyle choral blend was perfect for such yuletide favorites as "Adeste Fideles", "Christmas Island", "Faith of Our Fathers", "The Star Carol", and "Home for the Holidays".[5]

Several souvenir items, such as coloring books, paper dolls, and story books featuring the Lennon sisters, were produced.[6]

Having growing families, the sisters were only receiving Union Scale wages for their jobs on the show. The Lennon’s and Lawrence Welk would agree that the sisters would only appear on the show, once a month starting in 1967 so the sisters could pursue other opportunities and earn a bit more wages for their families. Unfortunately, over time this agreement would not work for Lawrence and in February 1968 the sisters were let go of their position on the show. Singing the song “Sweet and Low” the Lennon’s would go their separate ways from Welk after that.

In summer 1969, the sisters were filming episodes for their upcoming variety series, Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters Hour. They had filmed five episodes and then went on a two-week hiatus. On August 12, 1969, their father, William Lennon, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Venice Golf Course in Marina Del Rey, where he worked as a private instructor. Mr. Lennon was 53 years old and had just recently retired from managing his daughters' careers; he had been on set at every one of their television appearances since 1955.

The murderer, a stalker named Chet Young, believed himself married to Peggy and was convinced that William Lennon (Father of the Lennons) stood in the way of his "marriage" to Peggy and had to be eliminated. Two months later, Young used the same weapon on himself to commit suicide. The sisters discovered an unopened letter containing a cut-out of their father, a picture of a gun pointed at his head, and the words "High Noon" (the time of the murder).[7] The sisters were devastated by their father's death, and in the wake of the murder, their new show was impacted by this tragedy and lasted only one and a half seasons.

In the 1970s, the sisters performed regularly on The Andy Williams Show, and when that show ended in 1971, the sisters would tour around with Williams across the country, with engagements including Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. They had a successful floor show with Williams in Las Vegas for about ten years. They also appeared on several game shows, including Family Feud, Tattletales, and The Hollywood Squares. In the spring of 1982, Larry Welk asked the Lennon Sisters if they would like to perform at the Welk Theater from May until New Year's Eve for the Branson entertainment season. The four sisters moved their families from the Los Angeles area to Branson, Missouri. After the death of Lawrence Welk on May 17, 1992, the Lennon Sisters quartet headlined at the Welk Champagne Theater in Branson from 1994 to 2012. When Peggy retired from singing in 1999, younger sister Mimi took her place, and when Dianne left for a second time in 2001, the act was a trio again for the rest of its run in Branson.[8] They continue to tour across the country and appear annually with their Christmas show at The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, marking 20 consecutive years of performing in Branson.

Other than their 13 years on The Lawrence Welk Show, the sister group would appear on many other different shows throughout the years. These shows include The Ed Sullivan Show, The John Davidson Show, The Andy Williams Show, Celebrity Bowling, The Jim Nabors Hour, The Cher Show, Password Plus (Only Janet) and the Merv Griffin Show and many more.

While continuing to play tour dates, Kathy and Janet Lennon have branched out into the toy market, designing and selling a line of "Best Pals" dolls. In addition to the dolls, the sisters have recorded CDs of favorite children's songs for the "Best Pals" line.

The four original Lennon Sisters wrote an autobiography titled Same Song, Separate Voices, first published in 1985, with a new edition in 1995. A musical documentary based on the book was produced by Polly O. Entertainment and American Public Television in 2011 and aired across the country for several years.[9]

Two of their five brothers, Kipp and Pat Lennon, are members of the band Venice, which also includes their cousins Michael and Mark Lennon.[10]

The Lennon Sisters have frequented The Villages, the world's largest retirement community, for shows. They last performed in The Villages on February 15, 2016.[11]

The Lennon Sisters were among hundreds of artists whose material unfortunately was destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.[12]

Members[edit]

Name Birth date Spouse(s)
Dianne (Retired) (1939-12-01) December 1, 1939 (age 81) Dick Gass, m. October 16, 1960 – present, three children
Peggy (Retired) (1941-04-08) April 8, 1941 (age 80) 1. Dick Cathcart (1924–1993), m. May 24, 1964, six children
2. Robert Felt (1926-2013), m. July 2, 1995
Kathy (1943-08-02) August 2, 1943 (age 78) 1. Mahlon Clark (1923–2007), m. June 26, 1967, divorced 1979
2. Jim Daris, m. April 24, 1982 – present
Janet (1946-06-15) June 15, 1946 (age 75) 1. Lee Bernhardi, m. May 7, 1966, divorced, three children
2. John Bahler, m. September 25, 1976 – present, two children
Mimi (1955-10-16) October 16, 1955 (age 66) Danny Macias, m. November 5, 1977–present, two children

Awards[edit]

In 1987 The Lennon Sisters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500Vine Street.[13]

In 2001 The Lennon Sisters were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.[14]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Title Details Charts
US
Let's Get Acquainted
  • Label: Brunswick – BL 54031
  • Format: Vinyl, LP, Mono
  • Released: 1957
Lawrence Welk Featuring The Lennon Sisters
  • Label: Coral
  • Format(s): LP (CRL 57262)[15]
  • Released: 1958
Christmas With The Lennon Sisters
  • Label: Dot Records - DLP-25343
  • Format: Vinyl, LP, Stereo
  • Released: 1960
#1 Hits Of The 1960s
  • Label: Dot Records – DLP 25589
  • Format: Vinyl, LP, Stereo
  • Released: 1964
Melody Of Love
On The Groovy Side
  • Label: Dot Records - HLP 25829
  • Format: Vinyl, LP
  • Released: 1967
Too Marvelous For Words
  • Label: Vocalion 2 - VL 73864
  • Format: Vinyl, LP, Compilation
  • Released: 1969

Singles[edit]

Year Title Charts
US US
Cashbox

[16]
1956 "Tonight You Belong to Me"[17] 15
1957 "Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)"[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lennon family mother dies in Missouri at age of 85," The Argonaut, 23 June 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2013
  2. ^ "Lennon Sisters". walkoffame.com. 1987-12-15. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  3. ^ Source: interview/live performance, 6/18/2013, Home and Family, Hallmark Channel.
  4. ^ "Lennon Sisters". Welkshow.org. 1969-08-12. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  5. ^ a b Sforza, John: "Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story;" University Press of Kentucky, 2000; 289 pages.
  6. ^ "The Lennon Sisters : Biography". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  7. ^ Source, Dr. Doreen Orion, I Know You Really Love Me.
  8. ^ "The Lennon Sisters - Inductees - The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation". vocalgroup.org. Archived from the original on July 17, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  9. ^ "The Lennon Sisters: Same Song, Separate Voices (TV Movie 2011)". IMDb. 26 November 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  10. ^ "Venice The Band – Home". venicecentral.com. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  11. ^ "Villagers thrilled to see Lennon Sisters in pair of concerts at Savannah Center". Villages-News.com. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  12. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Lennon Sisters on the Walk of Fame". The Lewiston Journal. 1987-12-16. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  14. ^ "Induction Concerts". The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation. Archived from the original on 2014-12-20. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  15. ^ Reviews and Ratings of New Popular Albums: LAWRENCE WELK FEATURING THE LENNON SISTERS. Billboard, 9 March 1959. 1959-03-09.
  16. ^ Pat Downey; George Albert; Frank W. Hoffmann (1994). Cash box pop singles charts, 1950-1993. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 201, 372. ISBN 9781563083167.
    Frank W. Hoffmann (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Scarecrow Press. p. 152. ISBN 9780810815957.
  17. ^ Bob Leszcza (2014-03-13). Who Did It First?: Great Pop Cover Songs and Their Original Artists. ISBN 9781442230682.
  18. ^ ""Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)"/"Pocahontas" (7" vinyl single sleeve insert)". Brunswick Records. August 1957. 9-55028.

External links[edit]