In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument

Home | Doo Wop | Barbershop | World | Contemporary | Christian | Vocal Jazz | Choral | Christmas | Instructional | Arrangements

The Chordettes History

The Chordettes

Click Here for Arrangements, Compositions and Recordings

Based in: United States

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.

Group Videos