The Barry Sisters

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From left: Claire and Merna Barry.

Minnie (1925–1976) and Clara Bagelman (1923-2014), best known under the stage names Merna and Claire Barry, were popular American Jazz and Klezmer entertainers of the 1940s to the early 1970s.

Early years[edit]

The sisters were born in the Bronx, New York to Ashkenazi Jewish parents from Austria and Russia. When the sisters decided to entertain by singing in Yiddish, as The Bagelman Sisters, their father told them they would need to do it in the manner of the Old World and not with American accents.[1]

The young girls got their first break as singers on WLTH Radio's "Uncle Norman" show for children and were still then known as The Bagelman Sisters. They made their first recordings with Victor Records in the late 1930s.[1] They made a name for themselves as Yiddish jazz singers.

When the Andrews Sisters' version of the Yiddish song, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön", became a hit, musician and composer Sam Medoff started his "Yiddish Melodies in Swing" radio program on New York's WHN. Before joining the radio show, the sisters made a change of their stage surname from Bagelman to Barry.[1] From 1937 until the mid-1950s they performed on the program, where they would sing jazz recordings in Yiddish.[2] Their recordings included popular tunes, such as "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head" translated into Yiddish (Trop'ns Fin Regen Oif Mein Kop).[3]

They also performed in the New York Catskills resort hotels. They eventually toured with Mickey Katz.During the height of their popularity, they made appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Jack Paar shows and were one of the few American acts to tour the Soviet Union in 1959.[1][4][5] The sisters also entertained Israeli troops during the Yom Kippur War.[1]

Musical influence[edit]

The Barry Sisters also recorded with noted Jewish singer Moishe Oysher.

The Barry Sisters are thought to be the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live skit, "The Sweeney Sisters," in which Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn portrayed a sister cabaret act. Mark Shaiman did the musical arrangements for those sketches.

Merna Barry was born in 1925 and died in 1976.[6] Claire Barry was born in 1923 and died in 2014. She was featured in the 2002 NPR radio show, "The Yiddish Radio Project.".[7]

The duo's 11th and final album, "My Way," was issued in 1973.[8]

Danny Stiles frequently played their records on his radio show.


  • The Barry Sisters; Banner BA-1009 (compilation of recordings originally released as 78 rpm records)
  • The Barry Sisters; Cadence CLP-4001
  • At Home with the Barry Sisters; Roulette SR-25060 (w/Abe Ellstein)
  • Side by Side; Roulette SR-25136
  • We Belong Together; Roulette SR-25156; 1961 (w/Jerry Fielding)
  • Shalom; Roulette SR-25157
  • The Barry Sisters in Israel (live); Roulette SR-25198
  • The World of the Barry Sisters: Memorable Jewish Melodies; Roulette SR-25258
  • Fiddler on the Roof; ABC-Paramount ABCS-516
  • Something Spanish; ABC-Paramount ABCS-578 (arr. & cond. Chico O'Farrill)
  • A Time To Remember; ABC-Paramount ABCS-597
  • Our Way (Tahka-Tahka); Roulette/Mainstream/Red Lion MRL-393; 1973 (w/Jim Tyler, Jerry Graff)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Our Way liner notes (1973 album, 2008 reissue)". Mainstream Records. 2008. Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  2. ^ "The Rise of Yiddish Swing, on". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "MOG". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Vintage Lady". 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  7. ^ "Yiddish Radio Project web site". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  8. ^ November 1, 2008 (2008-11-01). "Jessica Emmerich, THE IDELSOHN SOCIETY FOR MUSICAL PRESERVATION (Formerly Reboot Stereophonic)". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 

External links[edit]