The Info List - The Boswell Sisters

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THE BOSWELL SISTERS were a close harmony singing group, consisting of sisters Martha Boswell Lloyd (June 9, 1905 – July 2, 1958), Connee Boswell (original name Connie, December 3, 1907 – October 11, 1976), and Helvetia "Vet" Boswell
Helvetia "Vet" Boswell
(May 20, 1911 – November 12, 1988), noted for intricate harmonies and rhythmic experimentation. They attained national prominence in the United States
United States
in the 1930s.


* 1 Early life and education * 2 Career * 3 Hit singles * 4 Notes * 5 References * 6 External links


The sisters were raised in a middle-class family at 3937 Camp Street in uptown New Orleans
New Orleans
, Louisiana
. Martha and Connie were born in Kansas City, Missouri . Helvetia was born in Birmingham, Alabama . (Connee's name was originally spelled Connie until she changed it in the 1940s.) Born to a former vaudevillian, Clyde “A. C.” Boswell, and his music-loving wife, Meldania, the sisters—along with their 14-year-old brother Clyde Jr. ("Clydie")—landed in New Orleans
New Orleans
as children, in 1914. Martha, Connie, and Vet studied classical piano, cello, and violin, respectively, under the tutelage of Tulane University professor Otto Finck. They performed their classical repertoire in local recitals, often as a trio, but the city’s jazz scene swiftly won them over, personally and professionally. “We studied classical music . . . and were being prepared for the stage and a concert tour throughout the United States, but the saxophone got us,” Martha said in a 1925 interview with the Shreveport Times.

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
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
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 New Orleans
New Orleans
while still in their early teens, making appearances in local theaters and on the emerging medium of radio . By the early 1920s they were performing regularly at local vaudeville theaters, with an act that combined classical, semiclassical , and jazz styles—though, as their popularity increased, the classics faded into the background. The sisters performed as they would for virtually their entire career: Martha and Connie seated at the piano, with Vet close behind. This arrangement served to disguise Connie's inability to walk, a condition whose source has never been fully confirmed. A childhood bout with polio and a go-cart accident are the two main hypotheses, and Connie backed up both of them in various media sources. One theory holds that Meldania crafted the go-cart accident story in order to spare her daughter the stigma attached to the disease.

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 to New York City
New York City
in 1930 and started making national radio broadcasts. The trio had a program on CBS
from 1931 to 1933.

After a few recordings for OKeh Records
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
Bunny Berigan
, Fulton McGrath , Joe Venuti
Joe Venuti
, Arthur Schutt , Eddie Lang
Eddie Lang
, Joe Tarto , Manny Klein , Dick McDonough
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
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
The Big Broadcast
, which featured Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
and Cab Calloway . (The song was also featured in the show Boardwalk Empire
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
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
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 CBS
, and performed on Hello, Europe, the first internationally broadcast radio program.

The Boswell Sisters
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
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
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 USO
tours during World War II, she was not given permission to travel overseas because of her disability.

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 Sisters of New Orleans
New Orleans
and the New Music They Gave to the World. p. 33. * ^ Titus, Kyla (2014). Boswell Legacy: The Story of the Boswell Sisters of New Orleans
New Orleans
and the New Music They Gave to the World. pp. 22–23. * ^ Titus, Kyla (2014). Boswell Legacy: The Story of the Boswell Sisters of New Orleans
New Orleans
and the New Music They Gave to the World. p. 32. * ^ Tulane University Register 19, no. 13 (1918): 178. * ^ Titus, Kyla (2014). Boswell Legacy: The Story of the Boswell Sisters of New Orleans
New Orleans
and the New Music They Gave to the World. p. 40. * ^ “‘Saxophones Got Us,’ Three Boswells Declare, Reason for Surrendering to Jazz,” The Shreveport Times, December 12, 1925. Accessed January 8, 2014. Boz Biz, http://www.bozzies.org/. * ^ Titus, Kyla. (2014). Boswell Legacy: The Story of the Boswell Sisters of New Orleans
New Orleans
and the New Music They Gave to the World. p. 47. * ^