Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Little Christmas Music - Greensleeves, The Beverly Sisters (1956)

As the group's name implies, the Beverly Sisters consists of three sisters (Joy, Babs, and Teddie) who crafted their singing style in the image of the sister groups which were popular during the 1940's. They grew up in wartime London, being evacuated to the Midlands to avoid the German blitz where they became part of a group of child singers known as the Ovalteenies (yes, promoting Ovaltine). Jock Ware, conducting the Ovalteenies audition, recognized the sisters' potential and signed them for the sum of 15 Guineas.

Through his connections with Cecil Madden, head at BBC Alexandra Palace, Ware secured an appearance for the sisters at the BBC's wartime location in Bedford. During this session the Beverlys met Glenn Miller who, impressed by their performance, offered the choice of any of his musicians to help them make their recording with the proper accompaniment. Unfortunately fate dealt a blow to the Beverly Sisters when Miller died in a plane wreck in 1944.

The Beverly Sisters appeared on BBC TV after the war and eventually appeared on NBC with the remainder of Glenn Miller's band backing their performance. After a successful Palladium appearance with Danny Kaye, the sisters were given their own BBC show. Three Little Girls was eventually renamed Those Beverly Sisters and ran for seven years.

Like most artists of the era, the sisters recorded an album of Christmas tunes. Theirs, entitled Christmastime, featured a hit version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, but due to my allegiance to Spike Jones' version, I couldn't choose that one to kick the season off. Instead I went with Greensleeves, a song that has a lot of personal meaning for me.

What happened to the Beverleys? Well, I'll let AllMusic's biography do the talking:

"During the 1960s and 1970s the sisters, who had five children in their families by now, only took local London bookings, preferring not to travel far from home. In the 1980s the children -- who had inherited their mothers' talent for harmony -- began singing under the stage name of the Foxes so as not to use the Beverley Sisters name. One night at the London Hippodrome nightclub where the Foxes were playing, Peter Stringfellow requested that the mums, although by then in semi-retirement, appear on stage themselves, and although this was not their sort of venue (with loud amplified music and laser light shows), they finally agreed. The reception they received was beyond their wildest imagination and led to two entirely new careers: performing for the troops overseas as a nostalgia act, and on the gay circuit as a camp act (even releasing a dance version of their song "Sisters"). They are still active in the 21st century, performing for the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. They also signed up for a ten-date tour with Max Bygraves to re-create the 1952 Royal Variety Performance in which they appeared together for the first time. They took part in the D-Day 60th anniversary memorial in 2004, and in January 2006 all three sisters were awarded MBEs in the New Year's honors list."

No comments: