I’ve always been fascinated by performers with extended careers who manage to transition into different kinds of music. I suppose that in some ways they’re just following trends by giving the public what it wants, but it can’t be easy to reinvent yourself and those who did it successfully should be applauded.
A while back I wrote about the Paris Sisters, a singing group that successfully managed the transition from one era to another, but they weren’t alone. Another group that did very well and achieved even more fame was the Chordettes, who rocked the charts early with “Mr. Sandman,” entertained teenagers with “Lollipop,” and later sold a lot of records with the Oscar-winning song “Never On Sunday.”
The origins of the quartet can probably be traced to Jinny Osborn’s Wisconsin childhood as the daughter of a long-time barbershop quartet aficionado, or at least that’s the singing style that she and three college friends adopted when they began to appear professionally in the post-war years. Joining Jinny in the original quartet were Carol Buschmann, Janet Ertol, and Dorothy Schwartz (who would later be replaced by Lynn Evans).
The group’s initial fame came from regular appearances on Arthur Godfrey’s TV variety show (where Janet Ertol met and married bandleader Archie Bleyer) and soon led to success in the recording studio. Over the next few years the Chordettes would sell a lot of records, with 1954’s close-harmony piece “Mr. Sandman” topping the charts. The group would also evolve by tackling other types of music, including R&B and doo-wop — albeit tamer versions.
The group’s big records included “Born To Be With You” and “Just Between You and Me,” but it was 1958’s “Lollipop” that endeared them to the teenage pop crowd. They would continue to play to that fan base but still explore other avenues, like 1961’s “Never On Sunday,” the Oscar-winning song from the film of the same name. But it would be the last big hit for the quartet, and the members of the group would soon disband and enter private life. Many years later they would gather to occasionally perform, but for the most part the Chordettes live on only in the memories of their many fans.