Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dorothy McGuire R.I.P.

Dorothy McGuire of the singing group The McGuire Sisters, died 7 September 2012 at the age of 84. The McGuire Sisters were one of the last bastions of standard American pop before rock 'n' roll took over, with a string of hits from 1954 to 1964.

Dorothy McGuire was born  13 February 1928 in Middlestown, Ohio.  Her father was a steel worker, while her mother was a pastor at a local church. Dorothy McGuire and her sisters sang at the church. While modern, secular music was banned in the household, the McGuire Sisters would listen to it in secret. It was in 1950 that agent and band leader Karl Taylor visited their mother's church and heard the McGuire Sisters sing. He made them an offer that they could work for him if they ever want to sing popular music. It was then a month later that the McGuire Sisters made their debut with Karl Taylor's band at a hotel in Dayton, Ohio.

The year 1952 would prove to be a pivotal one for the McGuire Sisters. That year they appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. That same year they signed with Coral Records. They would have their first major hit, "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite," in 1954. It went to #7 on the Billboard singles chart. The McGuire Sisters would follow it with several more hits, including  "Sincerely (which went to #1 on the singles chart in 1955), "Something's Gotta Give," "He," "Sugartime," and "May You Always." The McGuire Sisters also appeared frequently on television in the Fifties and Sixties, appearing on such shows as The Jackie Gleason Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, The Garry Moore Show, Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, The Arthur Godfrey Show, The Hollywood Palace, and The Dean Martin Comedy Hour.

As the Fifties progressed and  rock 'n' roll began to dominate the charts, The McGuire Sisters would find hits fewer and farther between. Their last top forty hit would be in 1959. It was  fittingly called  Just For Old Time's Sake." In 1968 The McGuire Sisters retired as a group. While Dorothy and Christine McGuire retired to spend time with their families, Phyllis McGuire continued to perform for a time as a solo act. The McGuire Sisters reunited as a singing act in 1986. They continued to play the night club circuit until the mid-Naughts.

I cannot say that I was ever a huge fan of The McGuire Sisters. Indeed, to this day I still think of "Sugartime," perhaps their biggest hit,  as "old people's music." That having been said, even as a child I liked a good number of their songs. To their version of "Sincerely" remains the definitive version. I have also always enjoyed their renditions of "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite" and "Goodnight My Love." What made The McGuire Sisters so listenable was that they had rather good voices and a gift for being able to sing in three part harmony. They could have easily been a low rent version of The Andrew Sisters (and they were sometimes accused of imitating them), but they did a very fine job of differentiating themselves. While The Andrew Sisters excelled at lively, swing and jump blues songs, The McGuire Sisters area of expertise was slower paced love songs. While their career faded with the advent of rock and roll, the group's songs will be remembered for a long time to come.

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