The DeZurik Sisters
Born and raised on a farm in Royalton, Minnesota, Mary Jane (February 1, 1917–1981) and Carolyn Dezurik (December 24, 1918 – March 16, 2009) were part of a family of seven. Their father Joe played fiddle, their sisters sang, and their brother Jerry played accordion and guitar. Inspired by their family and the sounds of the animals and birds around them, they developed an astonishing repertoire of high, haunting yodels and yips that soon had them winning talent contests all over central Minnesota. In 1936, they signed a contract to appear regularly on Chicago radio station WLS-AM's National Barn Dance, and were hired in 1937 to perform on Purina Mills' Checkerboard Time radio show, where they sang as The Cackle Sisters.
In 1938, the sisters recorded six songs for Vocalion Records: "I Left Her Standing There" (Vocalion 4616-A), "Arizona Yodeler" (Vocalion 4616-B), "Sweet Hawaiian Chimes" (Vocalion 4704-A), "Guitar Blues" (Vocalion 4704-B), "Go To Sleep My Darling Baby" (Vocalion 4781-A) and "Birmingham Jail" (Vocalion 4781-B). Those six songs were the only tracks the duo would ever commit to shellac, although some recordings exist of their appearances on Checkerboard Time.
Both sisters married musicians they had met at WLS—Carolyn accepting a proposal from Ralph "Rusty" Gill, a singer and guitar player, on September 1, 1940, and Mary Jane saying yes to Augie Klein, an accordionist, before the month was out. In 1943, Gill and Klein were drafted into World War II and Mary Jane had taken what proved to be a short-lived retirement to look after her new family. Carolyn joined Sonja Henie's Ice Review for a year or so, afterwards returning to Minnesota for a series of appearances on radio station KSTP-AM. Mary Jane rejoined her sister in 1944, doing road dates with Purina and regular shows at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.
Rusty was discharged from Army in 1946 and returned to WLS with his old band, The Prairie Ramblers. Mary Jane retired for good the next year so Carolyn recruited their sister Lorraine, and the new DeZurik Sisters returned to WLS in Chicago as well. By 1951, after a stint at Cincinnati's WLW-AM and WLW-TV, Lorraine had retired and Carolyn had joined the Ramblers as their new female vocalist, filling a decade-long vacancy created by the absence of legendary trick yodeller Patsy Montana. Carolyn and Rusty moved back to Chicago, where they began appearing with the Ramblers on the daily variety show Chicago Parade, airing on WBBM-TV and WBKB-TV.
Years after the height of their fame, Carolyn recalled that the DeZurik Sisters achieved their sound simply because she and Mary Jane "listened to the birds and tried to sing with the birds."
- Grand Ole Opry Timeline
- Hillbilly Music: DeZurik Sisters
- Obituary notice in the Chicago Suburban Daily Herald
- National Public Radio