In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
Formed by tenor Jinny Osborn in 1949 (whose father was national president for The Society For The Preservation And Encouragement Of Barbershop Quartet Singing In America Inc) the Chordettes - Janet Ertel, Carol Bushman and lead singer Dorothy Schwartz - got their in 1949 winning an audition for a spot on Arthur Godfrey's prestigious Talent Scouts daily TV show. Godfrey pronounced them "air worthy" and "truly radiophonic" and the girls began a four-year stint as Godfrey regulars, sticking to a traditional a cappella barbershop repertoire and even cutting some records for Columbia. Unsurprisingly they also became the new stars of the barbershop convention circuit, and when Dorothy left the Chordettes in 1951, she was replaced by barbershopper Lynn Evans from Youngstown, Ohio. Godfrey, dubbed "King of the Casual Communicators", insisted the girls stay pure barbershop, but his musical director, orchestra leader Archie Bleyer, disagreed. When Bleyer quit Godfrey's show to concentrate on his new record company Cadence (with its first star Julius LaRosa, who'd been sacked 'on air' by Godfrey in 1953), he was also courting Janet Ertel. The inevitable happened: the Chordettes signed with Cadence and left Godfrey, though paying tribute to the kindness of their first mentor "He was like a little father to us", recalled Lynn Evans.
Archie and Janet wed and the bond between the Chordettes and Cadence strengthened. Bleyer began recording the girls using simple arrangements in order not to clutter the vocals, and in 1954 their second single Mr Sandman rocketed them to major chart success. The sensational Chordettes' vocal arrangement plus the saucy flavour imparted by translating it from a man's to a girl's plea, kept Mr Sandman perched atop the US Hot 100 for seven weeks.
In the aftermath of the Mr. Sandman sensation, The Chordettes found themselves in the whirlpool of stardom. Nightclubs around the country clamored for them. They perfumed on radio programs (including Alan Freed's), entertained for President Eisenhower along the way, and sustained their television presence with Ed Sullivan, Gary Moore, and Robert Q. Lewis (on whose show they became regulars).
Their hit of early 1956, Eddie My Love, pulses with an entrancing torch vocal of sensuousness and innocence. Later that year Born to Be With You and Lay Down Your Arms rose through the charts and in 1957 they reemerged with the playful ballad Just Between You and Me. Then there was Lollipop, and gold record in 1958, sparked by the gook line, "Lollipop, lollipop, ooh lolli, lolli, lolli," instantly recognizable even today. That opening of the song carved out the contemporary rock 'n' roll sound that producer Archie Bleyer sought for the group. Their very next single, a version of the theme song from the TV series Zorro, was yet another chart record as was their 1961 rendering of the title song of the movie Never on Sunday.
Put on a Chordettes disc now and you're treated to the endearing freshness on the voices. The recordings evoke memories and impressions of the Fifties, or at least the Fifties as we've come to idealize them that simpler planet of pastel convertibles and hands entwined through a long summer evening. Yet the music outruns the nostalgic tether. On one hand these are good voices, each full of personality, each enriching the distinctive blend. On the other the exuberance of human voices in harmonized song, the soul of barbershop singing, infused all the groups recordings: the pop, the rock, the ballads, and the themes. Archie Bleyer thirsted to animate well-written songs with fresh sounds, but his musical playfulness never compromised his gift. Chordettes records are fun, they're often lovely, and yet they're free of the precariousness that wearies the novel into novelty.
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Review: Anyone who appreciates fine harmony singing will find pleasure and treasure in this new budget priced collection by the Chordettes, America's top female group of the 50s. With their imaginative vocal arrangements, their pure a cappella barbershop versions of standards and their surprisingly effective teen-orientated rock'n'roll, the Chordettes' often breath-taking harmonies lines still have the power to entrance.
Review: As this is another two-LPs for the price of one CD, we can hear you say, "Let me guess, they'll love this one too." Bingo! The Chordettes, who we think of as the first great Sweet Adelines group, pioneered women's barbershop singing when there was no such thing, and they did it with class, professionalism and style. "Harmony Encores" was released by Columbia in 1952, and "Sing Your Requests" in 1954, and they contain 23 classics of harmony and arrangement. While finding the original LPs in any kind of condition to play is unlikely, here you get the original master recordings on a CD with pictures of the four women, the original album covers and the original liner notes. From the opening cut, "Carolina Moon," to "Drifting and Dreaming," "Kentucky Babe," "The Anniversary Waltz," "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie," "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now," "Hello! Ma Baby" and the final cut "Darkness On The Delta," this is Entertainment!
Review: "Harmony Time, Vol. I & II" is a very generous slice of pre-Sweet Adelines history. By generous we mean two LPs (16 cuts) of the Chordettes by themselves, plus 8 songs with Arthur Godfrey and one with Bill Lawrence. It was 1946 in Sheboygan, WI, and four young women were singing together, working out some intricate harmonies that sounded pretty good. They named themselves the Chordettes. Encouraged by an early SPEBSQSA, they appeared in an all-male Sheboygan barbershop parade, then auditioned for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which they won easily. After that they joined the talented Godfrey troupe. We can't call them Sweet Adelines Champs, as SA hadn't been formed yet, so how about pre-Champs? The pioneering intricate, soaring harmonies the Chordettes worked out themselves are a revelation for lovers of pure barbershop of any gender. Favorites? "Moonlight Bay," "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," "Ballin' The Jack," "Shine on Harvest Moon," "Moonlight on the Ganges," "Love's Old Sweet Song" and "Alice Blue Gown." We also liked the Godfrey tunes, but they are accompanied (sometimes by Godfrey on piano), and feature Godfrey more than the Chordettes, who frankly could sing rings around him. In any case, this CD is a joy on many levels!
Review: The Chordettes were one of the most successful female groups of the vintage era. After their selection, in 1949, for the Arthur Godfrey talent program, they recorded a series of albums, first for Columbia, and then for Cadence. "The Fabulous Chordettes" is a selection from this later period ('54-'61), and includes their first big hit, "Mr. Sandman,", "Lollipops," "Just Between You And Me," and nine others (accompanied, but reticently). Their vocal style and arrangements, though not strictly vertical, were definitely influenced by barbershop theory. Many of the cuts are mono - the digital master was transferred from the original analog recordings.
Review: The Chordettes were a very popular Wisconsin-based barbershop-style quartet of female singers, who placed 13 songs in the top 100 from 1954 to 1961. Formed in Sheboygan, WI in the late 40s, the group was originally folk-oriented on the lines of the popular The Weavers. Original members Janet, Carol, Dorothy and Jinny had a sweet sound and got away from folk and into harmonizing. Here's a collection that includes some of their hits along with some lesser known gems.