THE BOSWELL SISTERS were a close harmony singing group, consisting of
Martha Boswell Lloyd (June 9, 1905 – July 2, 1958), Connee
Boswell (original name Connie, December 3, 1907 – October 11, 1976),
Helvetia "Vet" Boswell (May 20, 1911 – November 12, 1988), noted
for intricate harmonies and rhythmic experimentation. They attained
national prominence in the
* 1 Early life and education * 2 Career * 3 Hit singles * 4 Notes * 5 References * 6 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
The sisters were raised in a middle-class family at 3937 Camp Street
In addition to providing the young Boswells with formal, classical musical education, Meldania Boswell took her children regularly to see the leading African-American performers of the day at the Lyric Theatre. There, young Connie heard Mamie Smith , whose " Crazy Blues " (1920), the first blues record performed by an African American, was a hit. Connie would later imitate Smith's style on the Boswells' first record, "I'm Gonna Cry (Cryin' Blues)," before settling into her own vocal style. In interviews, the sisters recalled driving around New Orleans listening for new and interesting sounds, which they often found outside African-American churches and barrooms.
As their older brother Clydie began breaking away from classical music to study jazz, he introduced his sisters to the new syncopated style and to many of the young jazz players in New Orleans. Leon Roppolo (clarinet, guitar), Monk Hazel (drums, cornet), Pinky Vidacovich (clarinet, saxophone), Nappy Lamare (guitar, banjo), Ray Bauduc (tuba, vocals), Dan LeBlanc (tuba), Leon Prima (trumpet), Louis Prima (trumpet, vocals), Wingy Manone (trumpet, vocals), Al Gallodoro (clarinet, saxophone), Chink Martin (bass, tuba, guitar), Santo Pecora (trombone), Raymond Burke (clarinet, saxophone), and Tony Parenti (clarinet, saxophone) were regular guests at the Boswell home. The sisters were particularly influenced by the cornetist Emmett Louis Hardy , another friend of Clydie's, whose well-documented talent and skill helped shape the sisters' knowledge of jazz harmony, syncopation, and improvisation. Hardy and Clydie both died young and unrecorded, Hardy of tuberculosis at age 22 and Clydie of flu-related complications at 18.
After becoming interested in jazz, Vet took up the banjo and Connie the saxophone. Martha continued playing the piano but focused on the rhythms and idioms of ragtime and hot jazz .
The sisters came to be well known in
In 1925 they made their first record for the Victor Records . After
going on tour with a vaudeville company, through Arkansas, Texas, and
Oklahoma, the sisters landed in Los Angeles in 1929. They appeared on
radio programs and recorded music to be dubbed into films. However,
the Boswell Sisters did not attain national attention until they moved
New York City
After a few recordings for OKeh Records , recorded in Los Angeles in 1930, they made numerous recordings for Brunswick Records from 1931-1935. These Brunswick records are widely regarded as milestone recordings of vocal jazz. Connee's reworkings of the melodies and rhythms of popular songs, together with Glenn Miller 's arrangements and New York jazz musicians (including the Dorsey Brothers , Benny Goodman , Bunny Berigan , Fulton McGrath , Joe Venuti , Arthur Schutt , Eddie Lang , Joe Tarto , Manny Klein , Dick McDonough , and Carl Kress ), made these recordings unlike any others. Melodies were rearranged and slowed down, major keys were changed to minor keys (sometimes in mid-song), and unexpected rhythmic changes were par for the course. They were among the very few performers who were allowed to make changes to current popular tunes; during this era music publishers and record companies pressured performers not to alter current popular song arrangements. Connee also recorded a series of more conventional solo records for Brunswick during the same period.
The Boswell Sisters appeared in films during this time. They sang their 1934 song "Rock and Roll" in the film _Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round _, bringing with them an early use of the phrase _rock 'n' roll_, referring in the song to "the rolling rocking rhythm of the sea". They sang the lively "Shout, Sister, Shout" (1931), written by Clarence Williams , in the 1932 film _ The Big Broadcast _, which featured Bing Crosby and Cab Calloway . (The song was also featured in the show _ Boardwalk Empire _, S5:E5.) The song, one of the sisters' signature tunes, was described in a 2011 issue of the music magazine _Mojo_ as "by no means as archaic as its age".
The Boswell Sisters chalked up 20 hits during the 1930s, including
the number-one record "The Object of My Affection" (1935). (Of special
note is their involvement in a handful of 12" medley/concert
recordings made by
Red Nichols ,
Victor Young and
Don Redman and their
1934 recording of "Darktown Strutters\' Ball ", which was issued only
in Australia.) They also completed two successful tours of Europe,
appeared on the inaugural television broadcast of
The Boswell Sisters were among radio's earliest stars, making them one of the first hit acts of the mass-entertainment age. In 1934, the Sisters appeared 13 times on the Bing Crosby Entertains radio show on CBS. They were featured in fan magazines, and their likenesses were used in advertisements for beauty and household products. During the early 1930s the Boswell Sisters, Three X Sisters , and Pickens Sisters were the talk of early radio female harmonizing. The Andrews Sisters started out as imitators of the Boswell Sisters. Young Ella Fitzgerald loved the Boswell Sisters and in particular idolized Connee, after whose singing style she patterned her own.
In 1936, the group signed to Decca, but after just three records they
broke up. The last recording was February 12, 1936. Connie Boswell
continued to have a successful solo career as a singer for Decca. She
changed the spelling of her name from Connie to Connee in the 1940s,
reputedly because it made it easier to sign autographs. When she tried
to get involved with the overseas
Later groups the Pfister Sisters, the Stolen Sweets , Boswellmania, the Puppini Sisters , YazooZazz, the Spanish group O Sister!, the Italian trio Sorelle Marinetti , and the Israeli band the Hazelnuts imitated the sisters' recordings. Canada's Company B Jazz Band includes many Boswell Sisters arrangements in its repertoire and even created a set saluting the Boswells' appearance in _Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round_ for the cover of their second album, _Rock ">
* ^ Whitburn 's methodology for creating pre-1940s chart positions has been criticised, and those given here should not be taken as definitive.
* ^ Titus, Kyla (2014). _Boswell Legacy: The Story of the Boswell