DUOS & TRIOS Part 2
Following on from last month’s ramble, and not wanting to appear sexist, there were also a number of girl duos and trios who had varying degrees of success ranging from being household names down to vague recollections.
An early twosome were The Tanner Sisters, Stella and Barbara, who, again, weren’t related but toured the theatres and made records together. Among them was a selection of novelty and romantic items including “Chooin’ Gum”, “Mockingbird Hill” and their version of “Green Door”. However, Barbara and Stella are perhaps best remembered as one of the acts who toured the country with the great Buddy Holly in 1958.
Popular family trio The Mudlarks was made up of brothers Jeff and Fred Mudd and sister Mary. In the late 50s, they hit the charts with their covers of US hits “Lollipop” and “Book Of Love”. Their other records included “There’s Never Been A Night” and the wonderfully titled “Never Marry A Fishmonger”. When Fred was called-up for National Service, David Lane took his place and later got Mary out of the Mudd as it were, by marrying her.
Originally a duo, sisters-in-law Valerie and Elaine Murtagh were known as The Avon Sisters. Their first single was titled ‘Which Witch Doctor” and an obvious cash-in on the Devid Seville/Don Lang hit “Witch Doctor”. They were joined later by Ray Adams to become The Avons and had a hit with their cover of the novelty song “Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat” and also covered “Hey Paula” and “Rubber Ball”. The two girls were quite prolific songwriters and actually wrote the song “Dance On”, an instrumental hit for The Shads and a vocal hit for Kathy Kirby. Another of their songs was “In Summer” which Billy Fury covered.
Probably the top female vocal group in the mid to late 50s was The Beverley Sisters. Regular faces on TV too, they consisted of Babs, Teddy and Joy (Chinery). With their tight, twee harmonies, their most memorable song was perhaps the novel “Sisters”. However they also recorded in a variety of styles from their take on the jiver “Long Black Nylons”, the Christmas hit “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” to the thought-provoking “Greenfields”. A song they should have had a hit on was “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” which they often performed, but lost out to Lita Roza’s recording. Consistently maintaining their image, the threesome always dressed identical, wherever they were or whatever they were doing, whether it be at funerals or receiving their OBEs from The Queen. As well as looking the same, unfortunately, when being interviewed, they all had to try and speak at the same time too.
Another three-piece, The Lana Sisters was made up of Riss Chantelle, Lynn Abrams and Mary O’Brien who had a number of singles out, although I don’t recall any having real chart success. They also appeared on BBC TV rock show Drumbeat and were featured on the show’s soundtrack EP. For Mary O’Brien, joining the group provided her with a stepping-stone onto greater things when she changed her name to Dusty Springfield. She joined brother Dion, who changed his name to Tom Springfield, and Tim Springfield, to form the folksy vocal trio The Springfields.
Also from Drumbeat were The Three Barry Sisters who recorded a couple of songs with the really meaningful titles of “I-Ay Ove-Lay Oo-Yay” and “Jo-Jo The Dog-faced Boy”, and “Tall Paul”. On record, they were backed by the Johnny Prendy Orchestra who was, in fact, John Barry (Prendergast) doing a moonlight on another record label.
Female vocal trios and duos certainly had their own niche in the pop world (and it seems, still have) with others being an economy-size version of The Vernons Girls, who cut a version of Billy Swan’s song “Lover Please” and a couple of scouse-novelties “We Love The Beatles” and “I Feel Funny All Over”. From the Vernons, The Breakaways also evolved and became a very effective backing vocal unit on record and on TV.
However, my favourite British vocal duo of all time has to be Pinky and Perky, the two lovable puppet piglets. Dressed in their matching outfits, they possessed a most impressive high vocal range that gave each of their many records a most identifiable sound. But I always used to enjoy slowing their records down to see what they really sounded like, which was a cross between Gracie Fields and Louis Armstrong. Amazing!