The Lennon Sisters
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Lennon Sisters in 1969 and 1955.
1969, from left: Kathy, Janet, Peggy and Dianne.
1955, from left: Janet, Kathy, Peggy, and Dianne.
|Origin||Venice, California, United States|
|Genres||Traditional Pop Music|
|Labels||Brunswick, Coral, Dot, Mercury, Atlantic, Ranwood, Heartland, Maryco|
The Lennon Sisters are an American vocal group initially made up of four sisters from a family that had six sisters in all, as well as five brothers. The original quartet consisted of: Dianne (born Dianne Barbara; aka DeeDee; December 1, 1939), Peggy (born Margaret Anne; April 8, 1941), Kathy (born Kathleen Mary; August 2, 1943), and Janet (born Janet Elizabeth; June 15, 1946). All 11 Lennon children were born in Los Angeles, California.
For thirteen years, from 1955 - 1968, the group appeared regularly on The Lawrence Welk Show, receiving union scale wages. In 1999, younger sister Mimi (born Miriam Theresa; October 16, 1955) replaced Peggy upon her retirement. Dianne has also since retired. The current line-up of the Lennon Sisters is now a trio consisting of Mimi, Janet and Kathy. They continue to tour around the country and appear annually with their Christmas show at The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri.
The Lennon Sisters were 2001 inductees of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Their parents married in early 1939. Their father, William Herbert Lennon (1915-1969) worked as a milkman for many years before getting a job at a local golf course. Their mother, Isabelle Emily "Sis" (1919-2005) remained at home to care for the needs of her very large family. Sis was the daughter of Reina Ysabella Alvarez Denning and Danforth Denning. Their ancestry was a mixture of Mexican, German, and Irish.
During their formative years, the family lived in Venice, California, in a modest, two-bedroom home. This included two parents, 11 children, and one grandmother. They were and are devout Roman Catholics and attended the Church of St. Mark, which is part of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Most, or all[clarification needed] of the children attended Catholic school. Throughout the Lennon Sisters' career, their faith has had a major influence/role in both their lives and careers. Many of their songs are either hymns or of a religious or spiritual nature.
The quartet made its television debut on The Lawrence Welk Show on Christmas Eve - December 24, 1955. A high school classmate, Larry Welk, son of Lawrence Welk, brought them to the attention of his father. Welk was at home, sick in bed, when his son brought the sisters in to sing for him. Welk was so impressed that he immediately booked them for that week's show. They were a mainstay on the show until they left to start a career of their own in 1968. The quartet became a trio from 1960 to 1964; eldest sister Dianne married, left the group, and then rejoined. Peggy sang the high harmony part, Kathy the low, and Janet and Dianne sang the middle and lead harmonies. Janet also specialized in barbershop or counter-harmony singing, taught to her by her father (who performed during the big band era in a quartet with his own three brothers). The girls idolized Patti Page's multi-track vocal sound, feeling they achieved something close to her smooth blend in their Dot recording of "Stars Fell On Alabama". Kathy was especially fond of Connie Francis, evident in her solo recording of "Malaguena Salerosa", which showcased her impressive vocal range. The sisters made no secret that they were huge fans of the innovative, intricate musical stylings of both The Andrews Sisters and The Mills Brothers.
Their first hit, "Tonight, You Belong to Me" reached #15 on the charts in 1956. In 1961, the single, "Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)", (Dot 16255), turned out to be their highest-charting record. It was the only number #1 single of their career, reaching the top of the charts in Japan although only making it to #56 in 1961 on Billboard in the United States. Although much of the group's fame was based on their television appearances, they also recorded frequently for Dot Records in the 1950s and 1960s, producing a dozen albums, featuring their interpretations of well known standards such as "Among My Souvenirs", "Moon River", "Twilight Time", and many others. Some of their best known recordings included "Scarlet Ribbons", "Greensleeves", and Schubert's "Ave Maria". A themed LP entitled Dominique featured the Lennon Sisters with their musically talented siblings and cousins performing a variety of 1960s folk songs, including "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "If I Had My Way (The Sermon of Samson)," and the title track, Dominique. They recorded briefly for Mercury Records after leaving Dot, focusing on more contemporary pop/light-rock fare, such as "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Never My Love". Their three most popular albums were Lawrence Welk presents The Lennon Sisters: Best-Loved Catholic Hymns (Dot); Christmas with The Lennon Sisters (Dot); and Noel, their Christmas album for Mercury Records. Their full-bodied, homestyle choral blend was perfect for such yuletide favorites as "Adeste Fideles", "Christmas Island", "Faith of Our Fathers", "The Star Carol", and "Home for the Holidays".
Several souvenir items, such as coloring books, paper dolls and story books featuring the Lennon sisters, were produced.
In 1969, the sisters were set to star in their own variety show, Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters Hour. However on August 12, 1969, six weeks before the premiere, tragedy struck the family. Their father, William Lennon, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Venice Golf Course in Marina Del Rey where he worked. Mr. Lennon was 53 years old.
The murderer, a delusional stalker named Chet Young, believed himself married to Peggy and was convinced that William Lennon stood in the way of his "marriage" to Peggy and had to be eliminated. Two months later, Young used the same weapon on himself to commit suicide. The sisters discovered an unopened letter containing a cut out of their father, a picture of a gun pointed at his head, and the words "High Noon" (the time of the murder). The sisters were devastated by the death of their father and in the wake of the murder, their new show, Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters Hour lasted only one season.
In the 1970s, the sisters performed regularly on The Andy Williams Show, and toured with Williams across the country, including engagements at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. They also appeared on several game shows, including Family Feud, Tattletales, and The Hollywood Squares. From 1994 to 2012, the quartet headlined at the Welk Champagne Theater in Branson, Missouri. When Peggy retired from singing in 1999, younger sister Mimi took her place, and when Dianne left for a second time in 2001, the act became a trio again for the rest of its run in Branson. They continue to tour across the country and appear annually with their Christmas show at The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson (marking 20 consecutive years of performing in Branson).
While continuing to play tour dates, Kathy and Janet Lennon have branched out into the toy market, designing and selling a line of "Best Pals" dolls. In addition to the dolls, the sisters have recorded CDs of favorite children's songs for the "Best Pals" line.
The four original Lennon Sisters wrote an autobiography entitled Same Song, Separate Voices, first published in 1985 with a new edition in 1995. A musical documentary based on the book was produced by Polly O. Entertainment and American Public Television in 2011 and aired across the country for several years.
|Dianne||December 1, 1939||Dick Gass, m. October 16, 1960 – present, three children|
|Peggy||April 8, 1941||1. Dick Cathcart (1924–1993), m. May 24, 1964, six children|
2. Robert Felt (1926-2013), m. July 2, 1995
|Kathy||August 2, 1943||1. Mahlon Clark (1923–2007), m. June 26, 1967, divorced 1979|
2. Jim Daris, m. April 24, 1982 – present
|Janet||June 15, 1946||1. Lee Bernhardi, m. May 7, 1966, divorced, three children|
2. John Bahler, m. September 25, 1976 – present, two children
|Mimi||October 16, 1955||Danny Macias, m. 5 Nov 1977–present, two children|
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2014)
|Let's Get Acquainted||
|Lawrence Welk Featuring The Lennon Sisters|
|#1 Hits Of The 1960s||
|Melody Of Love||
|1956||"Tonight You Belong to Me" (Coral 61701)||15|
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Frank W. Hoffmann (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Scarecrow Press. p. 152.
- Bob Leszcza. Who Did It First?: Great Pop Cover Songs and Their Original Artists.