Many of us 'oldies' will remember the hit record by the Brian Sisters that was in the Billboard Magazine charts for five weeks.
Swinging On A Star is a real swinger of a song. Recorded with Freddie Slack, it thoroughly deserved to be popular. The Brian Sisters vocal trio, Betty, Doris and Gwen, gave us a permanent memory of their wartime singing style, in perfect tune and harmony, as good as it comes.
The main hit for this song was by Bing Crosby, the original singer of it in the film Going My Way.
Bing was 'No. 1' for nine weeks with Swinging on a Star in 1944, which made it even harder for The Brian Sisters to gain a foothold with the same tune in the same period.
Everyone seems to have recorded it at some time!
Here is a clip from the Brian Sisters' recording from June 1944 (recorded on March 9th 1944), bouncing along (if it still exists!).
|Charles Gifford, George Wendt, Bill Morris (trumpets)||Bill Lawlor, Gerald Foster, Jim Skiles (trombones)||Barney Bigard (clarinet)|
|Neely Plums, Clyde Hylton (alto saxes)||Les Baxter, Ralph Lee (tenor saxes)||Carl Leaf (baritone sax)|
|T-Bone Walker (guitar)||Freddie Slack (piano)||Phil Stephens (bass)|
|Dave Coleman(drums)||Brian Sisters (vocal)||Arrangers: Frank Davenport, Freddie Slack, Phil Moore|
An audio CD containing this song may still be available: "And the Winner Is… Capitol Sings the Best Movie Songs" published in 1992.
The Billboard magazine was judge and jury of popular music at the time and published popularity charts as well as reviews with somewhat odd, 'hip' wording.
In The Billboard magazine of June 24th 1944 the record was well received:
"This number is on the way up the pop charts (fifth this week) … The Brian Sisters do a slightly terrific job with their pipes…"
On July 8th 1944 Billboard said of the record:
"Band remains in the background with the Brian Sisters out front to sell the song. Gals harmonize expertly enough, but lose much of the inherent charm of the song in the over-dressing given to their lyrical arrangement."
The magazine seems unable to make up it's mind! In reality the Brian Sisters' version is sufficiently unlike Bing's to give it an attraction of its own. If it had just been a "Crosby Clone" would it have been so popular?
Sadly this record release came near the end of the Brian Sisters' time singing together.
In 1945 Betty married and the trio was no more.
When the disc was recorded in March 1944 the girls were aged 20, 17 and 16.
Together with the few surviving radio broadcasts, this record provides a chance to hear what the Brian Sisters could do when not fettered by movie directors.