The McGuire Sisters
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The McGuire Sisters
The McGuire Sisters in 1964
|Origin||Middletown, Ohio, U.S.|
|Past members||Christine McGuire|
Dorothy "Dottie" McGuire
Phyllis Jean McGuire
The McGuire Sisters were a singing trio in American popular music. The group was composed of three sisters:
- Ruby Christine McGuire (July 30, 1926 – December 28, 2018)
- Dorothy "Dottie" McGuire (February 13, 1928 – September 7, 2012)
- Phyllis Jean McGuire (born February 14, 1931)
The McGuire sisters were born to Asa and Lillie McGuire in Middletown, Ohio, and grew up in Miamisburg near Dayton. Their mother, Lillie, was a minister of the Miamisburg First Church of God, where as children they sang in church at weddings, funerals, and revivals. When they started singing in 1935, the youngest sister, Phyllis, was four years old. Eventually, they sang at occasions outside church, and by 1949 were singing at military bases and veterans' hospitals, performing a more diverse repertoire than they had in church.
Career in show business
The McGuire Sisters signed with Coral Records in 1952. In the same year, they appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and Godfrey hired them for his other shows, where they remained for seven years. The November 1953 issue of Cosmopolitan called them "Godfrey's Merry McGuires". The sisters often were compared to the Andrews Sisters. Maxene Andrews said in an interview with Joe Franklin on WOR (AM) radio in 1979, "The McGuire Sisters were fine once they stopped imitating the Andrews Sisters." While working on the Godfrey show, the McGuires befriended the singer Lu Ann Simms and attended her wedding to the music publisher Loring Buzzell in July 1956. Buzzell's publishing firm, Hecht-Lancaster & Buzzell Music (co-owned by Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster) provided two songs for the McGuire Sisters, "May You Always" and "Theme from The Unforgiven (The Need for Love)".
The McGuire Sisters and the Andrews Sisters met several times during their careers. Phyllis credited Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne Andrews during a television interview with Maxene in the 1990s, hosted by Sally Jessy Raphael, saying that her sisters and she met the Andrews Sisters in New York in the early 1950s and received important advice. The McGuires moved when they sang, often executing dance routines in lavish production numbers on countless television specials. The Andrews Sisters performed similarly in films in the 1940s, and were the first female vocal group to move when they sang, rather than just standing at a microphone. The sisters had mimicked that style, as well as those of the Mills Brothers and the Dinning Sisters ever since they were young, when they would perform short shows for family and friends in their parents' living room. Phyllis McGuire recounted that she and her sisters did not know any popular songs when they became famous (only the hymns taught to them by their mother), the trio imitated other singing groups long before their success.
They performed for five Presidents of the United States (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush), and for Queen Elizabeth II. In 1958, their mother appeared as a guest challenger on the television game show To Tell the Truth. The sisters maintained a busy television schedule, making frequent appearances on popular variety programs hosted by Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Red Skelton. The trio was dressed and coiffed identically and performed synchronized body movements and hand gestures with military precision. Their recordings of "Sincerely", "Picnic", and "Sugartime" all sold more than one million copies.
End to the group's public appearances
They retired from public appearances in 1968, giving their last performance that year on The Ed Sullivan Show. Phyllis McGuire continued to perform solo for a time. The demise of the group is often attributed to Phyllis' long-standing personal relationship with mobster Sam Giancana (although for years she claimed that their friendship was strictly platonic), which reportedly led to the group's blacklisting.
During one of his 1960s court appearances for which Phyllis was subpoenaed, Giancana told reporters outside the courthouse, "Phyllis knows everything" about the rumored unethical behaviors of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. Phyllis has resided in a famously showcased mansion in Las Vegas for decades, boasting its own beauty parlor, a swan moat, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower which actually rose through the home's roof.
When asked by Barbara Walters during a 1980s ABC-TV 20/20 interview from within the mansion if any of the money to build the lavish home came from Giancana, Phyllis denied the innuendo, claiming that she invested heavily in oil when the sisters were at the height of their popularity. In the same interview, she acknowledged that her relationship with Giancana was in fact a love affair, saying, "When I met him, I did not know who he was, and he was not married, and I was an unmarried woman. And according to the way I was brought up, there was nothing wrong with that. And I didn't find out until sometime later really who he was, and I was already in love."
The sisters reunited in 1986, performing at Toronto's Royal York Hotel for the first time since their retirement. Numerous nightclub engagements followed in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and New York City's Rainbow & Stars, showcasing the group and Phyllis' impersonations of Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Pearl Bailey, Ethel Merman, and even Louis Armstrong.
Singing their greatest hits as part of their act, they were also featured performing specialty numbers such as the frantic "I Love a Violin", the a cappella "Danny Boy", and a segment during which Phyllis retired backstage as Christine and Dorothy shared the spotlight playing a concert arrangement of "The Way We Were" on twin pianos. Other highlights in the act were a comical Trinidad-flavored tune, a soft rendering of "Memory" from Broadway's Cats, and a "Money Medley", which they also performed live on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in 1994. Since then, the sisters had made occasional public appearances together, including in 2004, when they reunited to perform in a PBS special Magic Moments: Best of '50s Pop. The sisters' command of their vocal cords and harmonious blend, perhaps the most impressive of any trio before or since, had not significantly diminished.
They were inducted into the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2001, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They also have been inducted into the Coca-Cola Hall of Fame and the Headliners' Hall of Fame. They were inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.
Christine was married several times. From the first marriage to Harold Ashcraft (1942 until August 16, 1950) she had two children, Herold and Asa. Christine later married John Henry Teeter (December 30, 1952 until December, 18, 1962), Robert Hugh Spain (December 12, 1967 until 1970), Guy Marks (from 1975 until unknown), George Rosenfeld (from ?? until his death 8/23/96)<https://lasvegassun.com/news/1996/sep/16/restaurateur-rosenfeld-dies-at-71/>, and David Mudd (2002 until his death on August 19, 2011). All the latter marriages remained childless.
On July 30, 1951 Dorothy married Sgt. John Henry Brown, whom she divorced on January 9, 1956. During their childless marriage, Dorothy was romantically linked with singer Julius La Rosa. On December 6, 1958 she married Lowell James Williamson, with whom she had two sons, Rex and David.
In November 1952, Phyllis married Cornelius (Neal) Anthony Burke Van Ells. They divorced in 1956. She has no children.
On September 7, 2012, Dorothy McGuire died at her son's home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, after suffering from Parkinson's disease and age-related dementia; she was 84 . Dorothy's husband of 54 years, Lowell Williamson, died six months later on February 25, 2013, after sustaining a fractured back from a fall; he was 89.
|Year||Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
b/w "One, Two, Three, Four"
b/w "Miss You"
|"Where Good Times Are"
b/w "Hey, Mister Cotton Picker"
|"Are You Looking for a Sweetheart"
b/w "You'll Never Know Till Monday"
|1954||"Uno, Due, Tre (The Italian Square Dance)"
b/w "Lonesome Polecat" (from Musical Magic)
|"Pine Tree, Pine over Me"||26||27||—||—|
|"Cling to Me"||—||49||—||—|
|"Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight"
b/w "Heavenly Feeling" (Non-album track)
|"Muskrat Ramble" (see below)
b/w "Not As a Stranger" (Non-album track)
|"Lonesome Polecat"||28||33||—||—||Musical Magic|
b/w "Give Me Your Heart for Christmas"
|25||34||—||—||Greetings from the McGuire Sisters|
|"Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In)"
b/w "Melody of Love"
|"The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane"
b/w "Hearts of Stone" (non-album track)
|"It May Sound Silly"||11||14||—||—||Chris, Phyllis, Dottie|
|"Doesn't Anybody Love Me?"||flip||—||—||—||Musical Magic|
|"Something's Gotta Give"||5||4||—||—||Chris, Phyllis, Dottie|
|"Rhythm 'n Blues"||flip||32||—||—||Teenage Party|
|"Kiss Me and Kill Me with Love"
b/w "If It's a Dream"
b/w "If You Believe"
|10||4||—||—||Greetings from the McGuire Sisters|
|"Give Me Love"||95||30||—||—||Non-album track|
|"Sweet Song of India"||—||34||—||—||Chris, Phyllis, Dottie|
|"Be Good To Me"||—||46||—||—||Teenage Party|
|"My Baby's Got Such Lovin' Ways"||—||40||—||—|
|"I'd Like to Trim a Tree with You"
b/w "The Littlest Angel"
|—||—||—||—||Greetings from the McGuire Sisters|
b/w "Tell Me Now" (non-album track)
|"Picnic"||13||20||—||—||Chris, Phyllis, Dottie|
|"In the Alps"||63||—||—||—|
|"Ev'ry Day of My Life"||37||33||—||—||Chris, Phyllis, Dottie|
|"Goodnight, My Love, Pleasant Dreams"
b/w "Mommy" (from Children's Holiday)
b/w "Without Him"
b/w "He's Got Time" (from Greetings from the McGuire Sisters)
|—||—||—||—||Do You Remember When|
|"Please, Don't Do That to Me"
b/w"Drownin' in Memories"
|"Beginning to Miss You"
b/w "Rock Bottom"
|"Around the World In 80 Days"
|"Kiss Them for Me"
b/w "Forgive Me"
|"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"
b/w "Honorable Congratulations"
|—||—||—||—||Greetings from the McGuire Sisters|
b/w "Banana Split"
b/w "Since You Went Away to School"
b/w "Do You Love Me Like You Kiss Me"
|80||—||—||—||May You Always|
b/w "I'll Think of You"
|1959||"May You Always"
|"Peace"||85||97||—||—||May You Always|
|"Red River Valley"
b/w "Compromise" (Non-album track)
|"Some of These Days"
b/w "Have a Nice Weekend" (Non-album track)
b/w "Lovers Lullaby"
|"Theme from The Unforgiven (The Need for Love)"
b/w "I Give Thanks" (Non-album track)
|"The Last Dance"
b/w "Nine o'Clock" (Non-album track)
|"To Be Loved"
b/w "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)"
|1961||"Just for Old Time's Sake"
b/w "Really Neat" (Non-album track)
|20||17||—||—||Just for Old Time's Sake|
|"Tears on My Pillow"
b/w "Will There Be Space in a Space Ship" (Non-album track)
|"I Do, I Do, I Do"||—||tag||—||—|
|"I'm Just Taking My Time"
b/w "I Can Dream, Can't I?" (Non-album track)
|—||—||—||—||Subways Are for Sleeping|
b/w "More Hearts Are Broken That Way"
|"Mama's Gone, Goodbye"
b/w "I Really Don't Want to Know"
|—||—||—||—||Songs Everybody Knows|
|1963||"Summertime (Is the Time for Love)"
b/w "Cordially Invited"
|1964||"Now and Forever"
b/w "Dear Heart"
|"Ticket to Anywhere"
b/w "I'll Walk Alone"
|1966||"Truer Than You Were"
Phyllis McGuire solo singles
|Year||Single (A-side, B-side)||Chart positions||Album|
|1964||"I Don't Want to Walk Without You"
b/w "That's Life"
|"Just a Little Lovin'"
b/w "You Don't Have the Heart to Tell Me"
|1965||"Run to My Arms"
b/w "Someone Else Is Taking My Place"
b/w "Vaya Con Dios"
|—||—||—||Phyllis McGuire Sings|
In popular culture
The McGuire Sisters, and most especially Phyllis McGuire, who lives in Las Vegas, were the subjects of the 1995 HBO movie Sugartime, which depicted a romantic relationship between Phyllis and mobster Sam Giancana. Giancana was played by actor John Turturro, and Phyllis was played by actress Mary-Louise Parker.
The 1982 Robert Altman film Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean prominently features the music of The McGuire Sisters. Their #1 single "Sincerely" is lip-synced by the film's stars Cher, Karen Black and Sandy Dennis as "The Disciples of James Dean."
- "The McGuire Sisters". Daytonhistorybooks.com.
- The McGuire Sisters official website; Mcguiresisters.com, accessed January 29, 2018.
- Pitman, Michael D. (2019-01-07). "'A high standard, for music and the good life': Local native of hit '50s group the McGuire Sisters remembered". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London, UK: Barrie and Jenkins. p. 75. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "New York Church Crowded for Lu Ann Simms Wedding". Reading Eagle, July 25, 1954. p. 2.
- "Reviews of New Pop Records". Billboard. November 24, 1958. pg. 42.
- "Review of This Weeks Singles". Billboard, April 11, 1960. p. 44.
- Sforza, John (2000). Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story, University Press of Kentucky.
- [PEOPLE magazine, "The Mcguire Sisters, Those Sugartime Princesses of Pop, Have Reunited After a 17-Year Split", March 3, 1986]
- ""Magic Moments: Best of '50s Pop" PBS special". Archived from the original on December 10, 2010.
- "The McGuire Sisters Biography". Musicianguide.com.
- "The McGuire Sisters". answers.com. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
- Kathy Shayna Shocket, "50th anniversary party reunites legendary trio", AZCentral.com, December 10, 2008.
- 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.
- "Army Cpl. Evan Asa Ashcraft". MilitaryTimes.com. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
- McFadden, Robert D. (January 4, 2019). "Christine McGuire, Eldest of the Singing Sisters, Is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
- "Dorothy McGuire". Telegraph. 2012-09-11. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
- "Ruby McGuire Obituary - Las Vegas, Nevada". Legacy.com.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 339. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- McGuire Sisters' page on the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame (NBHF) site
- McGuire Sisters' page on the Primarily A Cappella site
- McGuire Sisters' page on the Vocal Group Hall of Fame site
- Cincinnati Enquirer article on the sisters' home
- The McGuire Sisters on IMDb
- Dorothy McGuire at Find a Grave
- McGuire Sisters recordings at the Discography of American Historical Recordings.