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The Shepherd Sisters Were The Real Thing   Leave a comment

Unlike a lot of other sibling singing groups, the Shepherd Sisters were all real-life sisters. And even though the ladies had only one true hit record — “Alone (Why Must I Be Alone)” in 1957 — they managed to stick around for a number of years, during which they generated several dozen records, made countless TV appearances, and enjoyed a lot of success with their polished nightclub

The Shepherd family made its home in Middletown, Ohio, a small city near Cincinnati, and included eight children, most of whom were musically-inclined. In fact, three of the older sisters actually began it all by singing on local radio, but it was middle sisters Martha, Gayle, and Mary Lou who took it to the next level a few years later, although they retained the trio format for a while. (Younger sister Judy would later make it a quartet, but we’ll get to that in a bit.)

In the mid-1950s the new Shepherd Sisters began finding some success performing in the area and soon caught the attention of some experienced pros, who took over promotion for the group. Before long the girls began showing up in places like Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and also became part of various tour groups, including one that spent some time in Europe. The group also recorded its first regional hit record, “Gone With The Wind,” which drew enough attention to lead to a number of TV appearances on programs like American Bandstand. During this period the trio also became a quartet when high-schooler Judy traveled to New York to visit and they invited her to stay.

It was an exciting time for the girls and they wasted no time in cranking up their record output, including the song that would become their signature, “Alone (Why Must I Be Alone).” Although the Shepherd Sisters — or the ‘Sheps’ as they were sometimes called — didn’t have another hit record after that, the group did continue to work for several years, spinning out a number of solid performances in the recording studio. The sisters also continued to perfect their stage act, enjoying a lot of success in clubs and hotels from New York to Vegas, even touring abroad again before eventually retiring to private life.

sscdThe Shepherd Sisters – “Gone With The Wind” (You can also access music in left column.)


The Legacy Of Jimmy C. Newman   Leave a comment

When he died earlier this year at age 86, Jimmie C. Newman was still making occasional appearances at the Grand Ole Opry, where he’d been entertaining fans for more than a half-century. One of the true legends of country music, he originally made his name on several hit records that featured a traditional style, but later in his career returned to the music of his heritage and became the king of Country-Cajun.jcn2

Born near Big Mamou, Louisiana, Jimmy Yves Newman grew up surrounded by the Cajun culture. In fact, his family spoke French more often than English, and his exposure to music followed the same course. He also listened to plenty of regular country music on the radio, including his favorite, Gene Autry, but when he began his own career in the mid-1940s it was as part of a local Cajun music group. Still just in his teens, Newman was a solid singer and soon became known for his strong guitar work.

By the early 1950s he’d made his way to Nashville and was beginning to make a name for himself in traditional country music, culminating with his first big hit, “Cry, Cry, Darling.” It was the beginning of a decade that would see him generate several Top Ten records — including his biggest, “A Fallen Star” — while also appearing in high profile venues like the Louisiana Hayride and eventually, the Grand Old Opry.

An established star at the beginning of the 1960s, Jimmy Newman then began billing himself as Jimmy C. Newman, with the ‘C’ signifying his return to the Cajun music of his early days. Even though he continued to entertain his Grand Ole Opry fans with his many honky-tonk hits, more and more of his efforts featured Cajun music, and he eventually became known as the king of Country-Cajun. It was a crown he’d wear proudly for the rest of his life.

jcncdJimmy C. Newman – “Lâche Pas La Patate (The Potato Song)” (You can also access music in left column.)


Fantastic Foursome – A Very Friendly Song   Leave a comment

We’re way overdue for a new edition of Fantastic Foursome, the special feature that presents four different takes on a song (plus a video of the definitive version) and lets you decide which you like best. Of course, voting in the poll is completely voluntary but it’s quick, easy, and anonymous.fp

Most of us will remember “Friendly Persuasion” as performed by Pat Boone, and you might also recall that he sang it on the soundtrack of the 1956 film of the same name. The movie featured a peace-loving Quaker family coping with the Civil War, and the title was a play on the other name used by Quakers, the Society of Friends.

The song itself was composed by movie music maestro Dimitri Tiomkin with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, and it became one of Tiomkin’s many Oscar-nominated pieces. (Although not one of his three winners — it was beaten out for the award by Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera” from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.)

Pat Boone’s version was by far the most popular record of the song, but other notable renditions included those by the Four Aces, the Lettermen, Ray Coniff, Johnny Mathis, Matt Monro, and Aretha Franklin. Even jazz pianist George Shearing got into the act, recording one of a number of instrumental versions.

Below are four you can try: (You can also access music in left column.)

Four AcesFrank Chacksfield OrchGeorge ShearingJohnny Mathis

Four AcesFrank ChacksfieldGeorge ShearingJohnny Mathis


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