Archive for trio

The Pickens Sisters: Singers of High Society

Posted in Broadway, Child Stars, Singers, Sister Acts, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2017 by travsd

Jane Pickens (1908-1992) of the Pickens Sisters was born on this day. She’s chiefly on my radar because I’ve lived and recreated in Newport, Rhode island, where she was a longtime resident (summer and otherwise) and there is a theatre there named after her.

Jane was the musical leader and arranger of the trio that first included her sisters Grace and Helen. Grace later became the group’s manager, replaced by the fourth sister Patti. The girls were Southern belles from Georgia, taught to harmonize by their mother. Their father, a wealthy cotton broker, loved to accompany them on piano. In the early 1930s, they moved to New York’s Park Avenue and became involved in New York, Long Island and Newport Society. They often sang at private functions, with a specialty in what were then called “Negro Spirituals”. Fortunately, a search was on at the time to find female trios to compete with the popular Boswell Sisters. The Pickenses were spotted at a party and quickly landed both a radio deal and a recording contract.

Their radio shows ran from 1932 through 1936. They appeared in the 1933 Vitaphone short 20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang, and in the 1933 feature Sitting Pretty. Next came the Broadway revue Thumbs Up! (1934-1935). Jane sang solo in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.

The group split up when several sisters left to get married. Patti married radio actor Bob Simmons, with whom she performed for a time as Pickens and Simmons. Jane, the most serious about music, studied at several prestigious schools, and continued her career as a solo. She appeared on Broadway three more times: in the revue Boys and Girls Together (1940-1941), as the title character in Regina, a musical adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes (1949), and the musical Music in the Air (1951). She also made several appearances on television variety shows through the mid 1950s, and even briefly had her own such series as a replacement in 1954.

Jane was married thrice, to T.J. Russell Clark (whom she divorced), stockbroker William Langley, and Walter Hoving (the head of Tiffany and Bonwit Teller, and father of the Met Museum’s Thomas Hoving). In 1972 she ran as the Republican against Ed Koch for a New York Congressional seat (unsuccessfully, of course). Newport’s Jane Pickens Theater, named after her, opened in 1974. She died in Newport in 1992. Patti, the youngest sister, was in the midst of plans to record a tribute album to her deceased sisters when she too passed away in 1995.

Low, Hite and Stanley

Posted in Comedy, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Little People, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , on April 10, 2013 by travsd

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Low, Hite and Stanley was a highly vaudevillian act of the post vaudeville era who performed together from the mid 1930s through 1961. Amusingly, Roland Picaro Low was not the little person: that was Stanley Ross, who stood about three feet tall. And Henry Hite was about 7′ 9″.

Brooklyn native Low had started out with the acrobatic act at age 13. Then he was with the Three Jigsaws before joining Hite and Stanley. He was a very lucky avergae-sized man until the act broke up, performing in major theatres, night clubs and circuses all over the world. After the act, he lived in poverty until he passed away in 1998. A little of their act?

To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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The Roma Brothers: “A Study in Bronze”

Posted in Acrobats and Daredevils, Italian, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by travsd
"Trio", Walt Kuhn, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Collection

“Trio”, Walt Kuhn, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Collection

The Roma Brothers were an acrobalance act, who seem to have been active at least from 1924 until 1937, when they posed for painter Walt Kuhn for the painting above. They seem to have been most active in the second half of the 1920s — I see references to them having played vaudeville houses in Pittsburgh, Troy, Schenecady, and Salt Lake City during that time. The act was called “A Study in Bronze”. Covered in bronze make-up so as to resemble statues, the brothers went through a series of poses and hand balancing positions which appears to have been novel in the 20s, though its common enough today. (Most of the reviewers remark upon as though they had no seen such a thing before, which leads me to think that they are the originators of the gimmick).

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

The Early Years of The Andrews Sisters

Posted in Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Hollywood (History), Movies, Music, Radio (Old Time Radio), Singers, Sister Acts, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Patty Andrews (1918-2013) of the Sisters Andrews.

Of Greek origin (the real family name is Andreus) this sister act (which also featured older sisters Laverne and Maxene) was formed in 1925, with the three girls consciously emulating their favorite group The Boswell Sisters. Within five years they won a local talent competition at their local Minneapolis Orpheum vaudeville house (where Laverne also played piano during silent movies). They toured vaudeville and ballrooms with dance bands for the next several years until they got their first hit record Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, in 1937. Radio and film stardom followed and they were at the top of their game through their first break-up in 1951.

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

safe_image

And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

The Boswell Sisters

Posted in Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Singers, Sister Acts, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2011 by travsd

Today is the birthday of Connee Boswell, who, along with her sisters Martha (1905-58), and Helvetia (1909-88) made up one of the most innovative and popular vocal groups of the 1930s. The girls were all classically trained musicians who were also influenced by the evolving jazz music of their native New Orleans. Each could play numerous instruments as well as sing. Connie (who changed her name to Connee in the 40s so it would be easier to sign autographs) was paralyzed from age 3 and always performed sitting down. They began performing in small time vaudeville, local clubs and radio in 1923, and developed a local following in their home town. In 1930, they moved to New York, and began playing big time vaudeville and presentation houses, and national radio. They made a number of innovative records with the top jazz musicians of the day. (One intriguing fact: they recorded a song called “Rock and Roll” in 1934, one of the first verifiable uses of the term.) In the mid 30s, Martha and “Vet” quit to get married and Connee went solo.

Now here they are in 1934, performing “Heebie Jeebies”

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

The Three X Sisters

Posted in Radio (Old Time Radio), Singers, Sister Acts, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by travsd

The Three X Sisters were actually The Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce (i.e., Jessie Fordyce) who were later renamed to add glamor and mystery to their radio careers. Pearl Hamilton (1900-1978) started out in the late teens and early twenties in old school (non-stripping) burlesque. She teamed up with her sister Violet (1908-1983) and their friend Jessie in 1924. Their radio debut was in 1927. They were also in demand for cartoon voice overs during the 1930s. They gradually broke up the late 1930s, early 1940s. Pearl and Violet continued to pursue separate careers for a while. Little is known of what happened to Jessie.

The clip below is from their peak, around 1935:

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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The Brox Sisters

Posted in Broadway, Hollywood (History), Music, Singers, Sister Acts, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , on November 11, 2011 by travsd

The Brox Sisters were an early singing trio, whose Tennessee origins brought a certain Southern charm to the act. Lorayne was born on this day in 1901; her sisters Bobbe (a.k.a. Dagmar) and Patricia were born in 1902 and 1904 respectively. They went into vaudeville in the nineteen-teens; by the 20s they were marquee names in Broadway revues (notably Irving Berlin’s Music Box series). A connection for modern audiences: they sang Berlin’s song The Monkey-Doodle-Doo in the Marx Brothers’ 1927 show The Coconuts. The number was cut from film as a song, but remains as an instrumental dance number and is interwoven throughout the entire movie. They also performed in the original “Singin’ in the Rain” with Cliff Edwards in The Hollywood Revue of 1929. They all retired in the early 1930s to get married. They must have lived comfortable lives: Patricia lived to be 84; Lorayne, 92; and Bobbe, 97!

Here they are in the 1930 revue, Gems of MGM.

To learn more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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