Most of the Brian Sisters' prolific radio appearances were never recorded and are lost to us.
That doesn't stop me looking for chance recordings, but they will be difficult to find. If you have any, please let me know.
Although their movies are great, these radio treasures give a chance to hear them singing at their best, without the demands of the movie directors.
In 1936 the Brian Sisters broadcast regularly on the Curtain Calls radio show, appearing, for an unknown reason, as "The King's Treys"
They were popular with listeners and a 1936 newspaper article (opposite) pictures them together, with a considerable response from the listening public! The caption to the newspaper photograph reads:
"Look over the Fan Mail sample letters on this page, Col. 4. It's a landslide for the Bryan Girls. Their names are, from left to right: Gwen (7 years old), Doris (nine years) and Betty (11 years).
The Bryan sisters, whose lovely voices are blended from time to time on 'Curtain Calls', are just three young kiddies who learned to sing by - singing! It's that old adage about the only way to learn to write – is to write! The Bryan girls decided that they'd like to have a girl's trio, and since there were three of them in the family - why not try it? They did, and their voluminous fan mail proves they succeeded.
They are three sweet youngsters."
Unfortunately there are, so far, no recordings of the Girls singing as The King's Treys
Around Easter of 1937 the Brian Sisters appeared in an episode of the Texaco Town sponsored radio show with Eddie Cantor (broadcast on March 28th 1937).
On the show they cheek Mr Cantor for a while about having hidden Easter Eggs in the studio, as a reason for appearing on his show. The girls give their ages as 12, 10 and 8 on the broadcast, then sing the difficult Mister Paganini to a live audience in Hollywood and seem to be less stressed by their whole appearance than is the always flappable Mr. Cantor!
It's amazing that the girls could arrange the harmony forsuch a super performance entirely by themselves, let alone at their ages – but they did! The orchestral arrangement was written around their own performance and the conductor followed them perfectly.
The Brian Sisters are sadly not named on the show, but even from their singing it is obvious who they are. Unfortunately many radio listeners who remembered their performance might have thought they were The Galli Sisters, of similar ages, who appeared on the show in the following December and who were properly introduced.
Connie Boswell's influence is present again in this appearance – At the end of the song Mr Cantor says "and say thanks to Connie Boswell for sending me these cute kids." Thanks, Connie.
Also in 1937 they could be heard on a regular quarter-hour broadcast titled Brian Sisters' Trio, accompanied on piano by Skitch Henderson. They had a similar program in 1940 and 1941; this time accompanied by an instrumental quartet - see below.
1937 was also the year in which the Brian Sisters regularly sang in the Al Lowry radio series "Singtime" of which I have failed to locate any recordings at all. There were at least 12 shows.
In 1939, on 2nd April, the girls sang on the Screen Guild Show, which was broadcast "for the benefit of the Motion Picture Relief Fund" (not to mention, of course, advertising for Gulf Motor Oil). A little later, on the 24th September 1939 show and thereafter, the show was re-named the Gulf Screen Guild Theater, had a new host (Roger Prior replaced George Murphy 'due to his motion picture commitments') and dropped the 'variety' acts. The cast still gave their services free and Gulf Oil made a "generous donation to the Motion Picture Relief Fund".
The choice of Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son isn't the well-known nursery rhyme, but the less known song by Vick Knight & Bud Green from 1938. The Brian Sisters really swing it and demonstrate just how professional they were.
Gwen's vocal is surprisingly mature - she was just eleven years old! This performance is a real treasure.
The girls successfully 'go straight in', providing their own vocal introduction with no previous orchestral introduction, then sing brilliantly the whole way through. You can tell that they could happily have performed just as easily with no accompaniment whatsoever (which is how they rehearsed together, of course). The three girls push the song along with amazing energy and manage some good 'scat' singing. Gwen manages it all brilliantly and is clearly enjoying herself.
Well, listen for yourself…
On 1stApril 1940 a radio adaptation of Love Affair was broadcast on Lux Radio Theater, this time with Irene Dunne actually singing Wishing Will Make it So (she didn't in the film), and handing over to 'The Trio'. This time they had guitar accompaniment instead of the ukulele used in the film. The guitar is much better.
Irene says "I have been practicing too", but even she breaks the phrase "The curtain of night will part" (between 'curtain' and 'of') while the Brian Sisters very correctly do not, just as in the film. Maybe Irene needs a bit more practice?
The Brian Sisters are credited as 'The Trio' at the end of the show (not shown in this clip). Not that there could be any doubt! This episode was repeated on 6th July 1942.
Wishing is beautifully sung by The Brian Sisters. The balance of their voices is exactly right and they sing with calmness, clarity and the usual pitch perfection. The quality of this recording makes it very easy to pick out their individual voices, although their sound as a whole is perfectly blended. Gwen has the melody, with Betty singing below her and Doris with the low part, as usual.
Irene Dunne also recorded Wishing on her own.
Recordings of these broadcasts are widely available from various 'old-time radio' (OTR) program vendors.
In the 'forties, the Brian Sisters had their own radio show series on NBC.
During 1940 and 1941 their program was titled Dick Roselle and the Bria Sisters; they broadcast on a 15-minute 'slot' once a week, the day varying. The Dick Rozelle Quartette consisted of guitar, double-bass, clarinet and violin – they made surprisingly good music with this unusual line-up. The Brian Sisters sang to three of the six tunes in each broadcast.
In 1942 the girls again had their own weekly show, which was named just Brian Sisters, for 15 minutes each show. They were accompanied by Skitch Henderson on the piano. The girls so liked the song Wishing that they used it as their theme song.
The broadcasts were heard across the USA and were very popular.
They also appeared as singers on other shows, similarly to the audio clips above.
In one case, their broadcast was interrupted with news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7 1941).
During the war years they entertained the military at various bases and broadcast on shows for war-goods industries workers, including Your Blind Date and Hollywood Victory Committee. The girls were by now in their mid to late teens; quite old enough to wow the troops!
Your Blind Date ran from March 5th to July 6th in 1942, and included the Brian Sisters as permanent members of the cast. Billed as "The All-Star All-Girl Show For the Boys in the Service", it was popular but there seem to be no surviving shows, which is a great shame.
The show was broadcast on the Blue Network, initially on Thursdays on the West Coast regional hookup, until from April 20th it was fully networked. The regular cast included Frances Scully, Brenda Frazier, Cobina Wright, Connie Haines, the Brian Sisters, Nathan Scott's Melodates and Tizzie Lish.
There were disappointments along the way.
The Brian Sisters were due to appear in the program Camel Caravan which ran from the end of 1933 until 1954. At the last minute they were dropped from the show, which was sponsored by Camel cigarettes, being told that their youth did not suit advertising for cigarettes. They had even been included in some program advertising. Although a shame, it is good with hindsight that the girls missed this tobacco sponsorship!
They also nearly appeared on The Kraft Music Hall of the same era, but again were dropped before the show, this time for the Mills Brothers, in order to gain appeal to a black audience.
These disappointments reduced the public awareness of the Brian Sisters, which clearly had an adverse effect on their popularity.
If anyone has tape or wire recordings of these or other shows in which the Brian Sisters appeared, or preferably digital transcriptions, please contact me.