The Brian Sisters in Later Life
After their breakup as a vocal trio, The Brian Sisters followed their own individual paths.
So what did they do?
Betty had precipitated the breakup of the trio in 1945 by getting married, pregnant and unwell. She married Austrian-born Ernest Gutter (pronounced "Gooter") at the end of 1945 and they had two children.In 1941, her senior school year, Betty had stated that she plans to continue with motion picture work after that diploma is safely in her hand. A year earlier she had expressed the ambition to become a dress designer. But this was not to be.
When her son was still very young, Betty divorced Ernest and brought up both her children.
These times were very hard, with Betty unqualified and with no employment record, seeking any employment in order to support her home and children – somewhat reminiscent of her own childhood. Betty learned shorthand in order to obtain employment and tried (very successfully) to give her children a proper upbringing. She took them to football and similar events, managing to obtain tickets somehow or other. She paid the mortgage on the house, but had no money left for health insurance or any luxuries.
Her strength of character overcame all the problems, but it was not easy and she needed to do whatever jobs she could – thankfully her tenacity won through; she never considered giving up.
Betty found the time to study at the University of Southern California and earned a teaching degree. She joined the staff of the Torrance Unified School District in 1957 and soon became Director of the Audio Visual Program at South Torrance High school. In this role she took on the 'remedial' children who would in some cases have been easy to give up on, but instead Betty praised them and treated them well, arranging also that they would operate the film projector when required in other classes.
To the surprise of many, she was loved and respected by her pupils.Betty is fondly remembered by her pupils.
Kim Reynolds recalls his four years, from 1972-1975, when Betty was his Audio Visual teacher at high school:
“High School, for me, was a hard time. I don't remember any of my teachers except Ms. Gutter.
"Most of the time we had movies to show in classrooms. We would have the projectors on tall carts and wheel them from Betty's room to the classrooms every day. But on the days it was slow it was just nice to hang out in her class.
"Some students would smoke in back of her office (outside) facing the field. She would refer to the boys coming into her class (smelling of smoke) as 'smoked turkeys.' Cracked me up!
"My memory is a little foggy but I do remember Betty recounting working with Spanky and Shirley Temple while being one of the Brian Sisters. She and I had a few conversations about the Brian Sisters' early movies, but I can't recall any details. I remember her being very warm and patient, with a firm hand when it came to her job as a teacher. She would keep the boys in line all the time and had no tolerance at all for bad language. At that time there were no girls in her class.
"One day, on my way back from showing a movie to another class, the wheels (on the cart) hit a crack and the 16mm projector flew off and was badly damaged. I was terrified of what Betty would say, but she pretty much said 'accidents happen' and all was well. There was a teacher of English who liked to show 'The Bride of Frankenstein' in his class. Betty knew I loved that movie, so she would make sure it was me who showed the movie when the teacher wanted it.
"In my freshman year in her class, I told Betty that my uncle was Ed Brinkerhoff, her pupil in earlier years. She said 'Oh; Eddie!' and went on to tell how much of a pain he was, but a nice kid. She told a story about a science teacher chasing my uncle across the school grounds because Ed shook up a couple of the teachers' petri dishes and ruined a class experiment. She was laughing while she told it till her eyes welled up. That got me laughing, too! She had some other stories about Ed but I can't remember them now.
"Betty had a good sense of humor and I remember her laugh very well. I guess you would need a sense of humor in a room full of unruly teenage boys!
That's about all I can remember.”
In 1966 the Torrance Press-Herald newspaper published a short article about Betty, which included a photograph of her looking at memorabilia from the early years. Some of the accompanying text was rather inventive, as is the way of reporters, so isn't reproduced here.
It is surprising how she is still so easily recognizable from the photo above; then the student, here the teacher.
Betty has two children, Janet and Ernie, and four grandchildren.
“I am the 65-year-old daughter of Betty Brian. My brother, Ernie (60-years-old) and I are so proud of my wonderful mother and aunts. My mother is 88 years old now and suffering from the effects of osteoporosis. But! her health is otherwise holding, and we're hoping to enjoy her great wit, sense of humor, and supreme intelligence for as long as God will let us. She is still very popular with friends, neighbors, and church members who regularly visit her in her home and keep lots of flowers in her living room for holidays and birthdays! I am retired from Boeing Satellite Systems Co. and now operate my own small systems business. Ernie is an attorney working in England specializing in entertainment and gaming law.”
Betty Gutter lived in Torrance, California. I am very sad to say that Betty passed away in daughter Janet's arms early on 14th January 2015, aged 91, after suffering for years with severe osteoporosis.
Betty's funeral took place at Green Hills Memorial Park Chapel in California on 6th February 2015. Her Family and Friends all miss her and remember her with great fondness.
Doris didn't give up her musical career readily!
After her years as one of the Brian Sisters, Doris, who had taught herself to read music, joined up with the Jan Garber Orchestra in the vocal group, the Twin Tones, touring America.
Doris says: “We opened at the Coconut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel with a show called A Salute to George Gershwin and played the big hotel rooms in LA and San Francisco, traveled, and finished with weeks at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. There were lots of other appearances along the way”.
The photo is of the Twin Tones from when they joined the Jan Garber Orchestra in Los Angeles in March 1947. Top to bottom: Bob Parker, Bette Bligh, Doris Brian and Alan Copeland. Gwen was already married and didn't want to tour - Bette agreed to tour for about six months.
When the band tour ended in Los Angeles, Gwen replaced Bette and stayed with the group until it disbanded in 1948.
Even though Doris found the music rather 'corny' at times, it was nevertheless something at which she excelled.
The Twin Tones appear on three records with the Jan Garber Ochestra. They also broadcast with Jan Garber and his Orchestra on several Band Remotes from the Biltmore Hotel between 1947 and 1948.
Some of these band remotes are preserved and some include songs with the Twin Tones.
In 1953 Doris moved to Utah, “fully intending to give up the music business”. Instead, she joined with a business in Salt Lake City run by Charles Freed, called "CustoMusic" and "Notable Ads", which mainly produced radio and TV jingles. You can hear an unusual recording by CustoMusic of a weather report for Snow in which Doris provided all four voices, using the firm's multi-tracking techniques:
Doris married Wayne Rounds. She graduated as a teacher and became Teacher of English in a junior high school, retiring after 22 years. She lived in Utah and has 3 sons, 7 grandchildren and 16 (more by now!) great-grandchildren.
Doris was a dedicated member of the LDS Church and held a senior role within the Boy Scouts of America. The picture shows her in that role.
Even a skin cancer and shingles in 2013 and a small stroke in 2016 didn't stop Doris from enjoying life with her family. Each Christmas she spent time with her sons and their families, greatly enjoying her time with them. She could even remember the names of all those great-grandchildren, which is an effort for me!
Doris liked walking in the mountains nearby, and was a great help at her son's business premises, which she attended on a regular basis.
I'm very sad indeed to report that Doris passed away due to a severe heart attack in July 2018, just a week before her ninety-second birthday. She will be missed greatly and remembered dearly by her family and friends.
Both Gwen and Doris were originally part of the Twin Tones, which was created by Alan Copeland. Alan knew of the Brian Sisters and asked the girls if they would join him in the new venture. Gwen and Doris sang when the group successfully auditioned for the Jan Garber Orchestra in early 1947.
But Gwen, married to James E. Wardrobe on 5th November 1946 in a radio-broadcast ceremony, naturally didn't want to join Doris in the tour of America that commenced early in 1947.
After the Jan Garber Orchestra tour finished in Los Angeles, Gwen re-joined Doris in the Twin Tones, replacing Bette, and remained with them until the group disbanded in 1948.
The photo is the Twin Tones on September 14th 1947 at the Edgewater Beach Ballroom in San Francisco, where they sang with the Jan Garber Orchestra.
Left to Right: Alan Copeland, Gwen Brian Wardrobe, Doris Brian and Bob Parker.
Apart from their appearances on several Band Remotes from The Biltmore Hotel in L.A., there are three 78rpm gramophone records which include Doris and Gwen in the Twin Tones, singing with the Jan Garber Orchestra.
The first record is released, oddly, as the Art Kassel Orchestra, on which they sang Winter Wonderland. This is Mercury 5077, released in October 1947.
On the second record the 'Tones' accompany Garber's resident soloist, Tim Reardon, in For Heaven's Sake. This was released in December 1947 on Capitol 15115.
The third record is Capitol 15088B. Nobody But You, with Jan Garber and his Orchestra, which was released in May 1948.This has a very good 'modern' vocal arrangement by Alan Copeland and an excellent performance by the quartet, with two short solos by Gwen. Maybe I'll add it here, if you ask.
Gwen and Jim settled in Alhambra, California.
She didn't become the airplane mechanic that she had hankered after when at school in 1942, and was happy being a housewife and mother to two children and two grandchildren. Sadly, Steven died young; her daughter lives in Colorado.
Sadly, Gwen succumbed to lung cancer and died aged 62 on Sept 16th 1990, in Alhambra.
Meda, Mother of the Brian Sisters, was in her early fifties when the Brian Sisters trio disbanded - she was disappointed at the break-up, but no doubt very happy at how things had worked out for them.
Meda obtained employment as a representative for a fine linens firm and retired in 1975.
Meda lived with Betty in later years and died aged 102 in 1995, outliving Gwen, her youngest daughter, who died from cancer in 1990.
Meda's 100th birthday celebrations, with Meda's grand-daughter (Norma's daughter) Patricia.