The Lennon Sisters have been together for 60 years. The two youngest sisters, Janet and Kathy have been in the band continuously since 1955. Youngest sister from the family Mimi replaced Peggy on her retirement in 1999. Dianne retired in 2001 after a measly 46 years (plus she had a four year break in the early sixties – the audacity!).
The Lennon sisters for all their years in showbiz aren’t so well known outside variety show circles in the US. They are a vocal group from a family of six sisters and five brothers that made it on televison in the fifties (appearing on the Lawrence Welk show for 13 years). If you don’t know who Lawrence Welk was, his television show lasted for 31 years from 1951 to 1982. He was a German speaking immigrant from Odessa with a strange accent that he lost but brought back for authenticity. He was a band leader and accordionist who held patents for both an accordion themed ashtray and serving tray and a musically themed menu. (Ha Ha of course he did!) What kind of music did he play – Champagne Music – an unknown genre to most.
The Lennon sisters never had sixties Pop cred, they didn’t fit into that Girl Group trend, they never had War Years cred like The Andrews Sisters or thirties cred like The Boswell Sisters but they slotted nicely into that safe, middle of the road TV category as devout catholic girls. After spending so long under the protective “shell” of Lawrence Welk they left him in 1968 for their own show with Jimmy Durante in 1969 but it was short-lived – Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters lasted just one season. The cosy glow of Andy Williams and game shows came to their rescue keeping their public profile alive, they also appeared in cabaret in Las Vegas.
But even girls from such safe religious backgrounds can have surreal moments – here’s one of them. If you are smoking anything right now I suggest you secure yourself.
The Siamese Cat Song comes from the 1955 animated Disney Movie, The Lady And The Tramp and was written by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee. (Burke also wrote the music for the Peggy Lee standard Black Coffee). In the film Peggy Lee also sang the song, playing various characters including Si and Am, Peg and Darling.
Go here for a Peggy Lee In Deep Music Archive post:
Note: In case you are confused – the song The Lady Is A Tramp is something altogether different. It was written by Rodgers And Hart for the musical Babes In Arms in 1937.
A squeaky clean image, regular visits to church, a career in showbiz – what could possibly go wrong for these talented, sweet and innocent siblings from Venice, California? On the 12th August 1969 their father William was shot and killed by a stalker in the car park of the Marina Del Rey golf course where he worked. He believed that William Lennon stood in the way of his marriage to sister Peggy, the killer shot himself with the same weapon two months later.
To think that they still perform is quite incredible and I wonder if they remember this bizarre moment in 1958 licking their lips dressed as half cats and half a sofa.