One of the most famous musical acts of the WW II era, if not the most famous act, was the Andrews Sisters. There were, however, actually a multitude of sister acts in the late 30s, the premier one being the Boswell Sisters out of New Orleans. (A blog, dedicated to the group is entitled, “Get Bozzed.”) The Andrews Sisters began as imitators of the Boswell Sisters who disbanded in 1936, although Connie Boswell continued as a solo artist. (As a point of reference, “Bei Mir Bist du Schon” was the Andrews Sisters first hit, debuted in 1937.)
There was another sister group out there, mostly forgotten now, but very popular at the time, namely, the Brian Sisters. It was Connie Boswell who helped launch the careers of Betty, Doris, and Gwen Brian. They were aged 12, 9, and 7 respectively, when they appeared in their first movie, Our Gang Follies of 1936. Cute beyond words, they sang, “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm.” The Brian Sisters appeared regularly in film and on radio until 1945 when Betty got married and the trio broke up. Perhaps one reason the sisters are largely unknown today is that they made only one record during their careers, “Swingin’ On A Star.” Recorded in 1944 with the Freddie Slack Orchestra, for whom Ella Mae Morse (one of my favorites) was the lead singer, the record made the Billboard Charts, but Bing Crosby was riding the same song all the way to #1 at just about the same time.
Nevertheless, that same year of 1944, saw the sisters appear in the B movie, Beautiful But Broke, in which they sang, “Blues By Any Other Name,” providing me with some of my favorite lyrics ever:
Then someone got the notion that I could revive.
He took away my sadness, and gave me jive.
He added boogie woogie, and when he got through,
He made my blues a blues that anyone could do.
To me, I’m just another blues.
I’d like to thank you, for the boogie, right?
Thanks for the eight to the bar.
Now I’m on the solid side,
Biggest attraction by far.
I’m just another blues, but now in ‘43
Everyone is sayin’ what a hit I’ll be
Who’d ever guess that this success could all take place?
Because somebody put some boogie in my bass.
He took away my sadness and gave me jive . . . somebody put some boogie in my bass.
Those are classic lines from the time, and the Brian Sisters should be remembered for “Blues By Any Other Name,” if for nothing else. Well, that song, and a Halloween tune that we’ll explore in next week’s post. It’s a song about a slasher, at least I think that’s what it’s about. There was some mention about cutting a rug. 🙂
For more on the Brian Sisters, visit their website, which was clearly created by someone who has deep affection for a long-ago, but not quite forgotten trio.