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The Chordettes were one of the longest-lived vocal groups with roots in the mainstream pop and vocal harmonies of the 1940s and early '50s. Although the four women's arrangements owed more to the Andrews Sisters than doo wop, they did, unlike many of their peers, prove fairly adaptable to the rock era. First establishing themselves with the huge (and non-rock) pop hit "Mr. Sandman" in 1954, they continued to chart in the last half of the '50s and the early '60s, often with covers of rock and R&B songs. The 1958 number two hit "Lollipop" was the biggest of these. Although the group's sound (at least in retrospect) fell among the Whitest and squarest of rock artists, they introduced enough rock into their repertoire and production to sound more contemporary than they had on songs such as "Mr. Sandman."
Jinny Osborn was exposed to harmony singing via her father, who was president of "The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America Inc." She formed the quartet with three college friends, and they became regulars on Arthur Godfrey's television show for four years in 1949, singing a cappella in the barbershop style, and recording for Columbia. Godfrey's musical director, Archie Bleyer, married the Chordettes' bass singer, Janet Ertel, around the same time he began his record label, Cadence. On Cadence, the group began to record with musical backing, though the barbershop elements are still well to the fore on "Mr. Sandman." Originally a B-side for Vaughn Monroe, the bouncy, somewhat novelty-oriented tune (complete with a deep-voiced "Yes?" from a voice representing "Mr. Sandman" at one point) made number one for seven weeks.
The Chordettes were among the White pop acts that covered rock and R&B songs in the mid-'50s for the pop market, as early rock & roll began its successful threat to take over the mainstream audience. In so doing, they managed to split sales with the Teen Queens on the early doo wop classic "Eddie My Love," which made the Top 20 in versions by both groups. They also covered a song by Ronald & Ruby, "Lollipop," in their characteristic full-round-like arrangement, complete with popping sounds. This was their best rock, or at least rock-ish, tune, though they had continued to record straight pop songs, too, and had substantial hits with singles like "Born to Be with You" and "Just Between You and Me."
In the late '50s and early '60s, the Chordettes continued to alternate between pop songs and ones with an eye on the rock market, including covers of the Coasters' "Charlie Brown," Paul Anka's "Lonely Boy," and Dodie Stevens' "Pink Shoelaces." They even did some recordings with King Curtis on sax. After "Lollipop" there were a few more hits: "Zorro," "No Other Arms, No Other Lips," and "Never on Sunday." They disbanded shortly after "Never on Sunday" made the Top 20 in 1961, however, when Jinny Osborn left and the group couldn't find a replacement with whom they were happy.
The Chordettes were an American female popular singing quartet, usually singing a cappella, and specializing in traditional popular music.
The group organized in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1946. The original members of the group were Janet Ertel, Carol Buschmann (her sister-in-law), Dorothy Schwartz, and Jinny Osborn/Lockard (April 25, 1928 – May 19, 2003). In 1952 Lynn Evans replaced Schwartz and in 1953, Margie Needham replaced Osborn (who was having a baby), though Osborn later returned to the group. Nancy Overton also was a member of the group at a later time. Originally they sang folk music in the style of The Weavers, but eventually changed to a harmonizing style of the type known as barbershop harmony or close harmony. Part of this change seems to be influenced by Osborn's father.
Jinny Osborn was born in Seattle, Washington. She was born Virginia Cole, the daughter of O. H. "King" Cole, who was president of the Barbershop Harmony Society (then known as SPEBSQSA), and Katherine Flack.
After performing locally in Sheboygan, they won on Arthur Godfrey's radio program Talent Scouts in 1949. They held feature status on Godfrey's daily program, and then recorded for Columbia Records.
In 1953, Godfrey's music director and orchestra leader, Archie Bleyer, founded Cadence Records. He signed a number of Godfrey regulars and former regulars, including the Chordettes, who had a number of hit records for Cadence.
Their biggest hit was "Mr. Sandman" in 1954. Archie Bleyer himself is on that record along with the group, Bleyer stripping the sound down the better not to clutter the girls' voices. They also hit No. 2 with 1958's "Lollipop" and also charted with a vocal version of the themes from Disney's Zorro (U.S. #17) (1959) and the film Never on Sunday (U.S. #13) (1961). Other hits for the girls included "Eddie My Love" (U.S. #14), "Born to Be With You" (U.S. #5), "Lay Down Your Arms" in 1956, and "Just Between You and Me" (U.S. #8) in 1957. Their cover of "The White Rose Of Athens" hit the Australian Top 15 in May, 1962. The US single "In The Deep Blue Sea" was a one-week Music Vendor entry four months later (#128).
Janet Ertel married Bleyer in 1954. Her daughter Jackie married another Cadence recording star, Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers.
The Chordettes appeared on American Bandstand on August 5, 1957, the first episode of that show to be broadcast nationally on the ABC Television Network.
In 1961, Jinny Osborn left the group, and they were unable to find a replacement with whom they were happy, leading to a breakup.
The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.
The longest living member of the Chordettes who has sung on all the Chordettes' recordings, both a cappella and Cadence recordings, is Carol Buschmann. Lynn Evans Mand sang on all the Chordettes' Cadence Recordings. In 2004, Mand appeared on a PBS television special Magic Moments: The Best of 50s Pop, with other 1950s pop icons, singing "Lollipop." Buschmann, Mand and Margie Needham Latzko, are the surviving singers who recorded "Mr. Sandman". Janet Ertel Bleyer, the other singer on that recording, died in 1988.
During Super Bowl XLV, CarMax unveiled a new commercial featuring the Chordettes' 1955 song "Lonely Lips". A 2012 Kia Optima car commercial premiered during Super Bowl XLVI featuring the Chordette's recording of "Mister Sandman."
Their songs "Mr. Sandman" and "Lollipop" were featured in the games Mafia II and Lollipop Chainsaw in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Their song "Lonely Lips" was featured on Season 5, Episode 3 (Goodbye Kitty) of the television show Malcolm In The Middle (2003).
Their song "Mr. Sandman" was featured in the movies Back to the Future (1985), Uncle Buck (1989), and Mr. Nobody (2009).CarMax – Gas Station – 2011 Super Bowl Commercial Ad
Janet Ertel Bleyer died in 1988. Jinny Osborn (later known as Jinny Janis) died in 2003. On April 5, 2009, Nancy Overton died after a long battle with esophageal cancer. Dorothy Schwartz, Margie Latzko, Carol Buschmann, and Lynn Evans are the only living members of the group.Hevesi, Dennis (April 10, 2009). "Nancy Overton, Singer for the Chordettes, Is Dead at 83". New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2009.