Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lennon Sisters in Reminisce Magazine

Many thanks to Katerina over at The Yahoo Group for the heads-up on Kathy and Janet writing about The Lennon Sisters in the April-May issue of Reminisce magazine.You can read the article in PDF form here and clicking on "large print" or read the text below.

Sweethearts of Song
The Lennon Sisters have always loved performing, but they saw themselves as the “kids down the street.”
Reminisce magazine cover, April May 2007 issueReminisce magazine, contents, April May 2007 issue
By Janet and Kathy Lennon

On Christmas Eve 1955, we Lennon Sisters, then ages 9-16, were preparing to make our first appearance on The Lawrence Welk Show, which was in its first season on TV. Just before the live broadcast, someone from one of the show’s sponsors said to us, “Only 30 million people are watching…” Kathy remembers herself and Peggy just staring at each other. Despite having sung publicly only in church and at Elks and Rotary clubs, the four of us rose to the occasion, not only for that first show, but for most Saturday nights over the next 12-plus years. We’d see the nervousness in each other’s eyes, but we kept it from affecting our performance. At the time of our debut, Janet was just 9 years old; Kathy, 12; Peggy, 14; and Dianne, whom we call Dee Dee, 16.

Ordinary Beginnings

Reminisce magazine, Kathy and Janet Lennon, April May 2007 issue Reminisce magazine, The Lennon Sisters, April May 2007 issue
We believe we were anchored by our beginnings. Before the Lennon sisters became The Lennon Sisters, the four oldest children of William and Isabelle Lennon lived somewhat ordinary lives as part of a large family—at the time, there were “only” eight kids. What wasn’t ordinary were the living arrangements of our family of 11, which was crammed, sardine-like, into a two-bedroom house in Venice, California.
At one point, there were two sets of bunk beds and a fold-out bed in one bedroom and three babies in the other. Our parents slept in the living room, while our grandmother Nana lived in a tiny room in the back of the house. There was no room for dressers, so our clever mother obtained long, wide bread drawers from “Jim the Baker,” who used such drawers in his delivery trucks. The drawers fit perfectly under each bed and stored our clothing.
Our mother’s creativity also came into play when she purchased a single bike and a single pair of skates for herself, then lent them to her children. This eliminated any possibility of bickering and led us siblings to become resourceful.We recall each wearing a single skate and scooting around the block together. There was very little money to go around, especially for vacations, but we don’t remember ever feeling deprived.We have wonderful memories of making annual visits to our Great-Uncle Max’s apricot ranch north of Los Angeles. For a week or so every year, we picked fruit, went fishing and sold apricots at a roadside stand. Our father’s job as a milkman also helped the money situation. One of the perks was getting 120 quarts of milk a week for his family. Without the help, we wonder how it would have been possible to feed all of us!
Reminisce magazine, The Lennon Sisters, April May 2007 issue
In light of our cramped house, we had a dream of building a dormitory for ourselves in the backyard, putting money away through our singing appearances for our area’s local civic organizations. It was at one of these performances, in late 1955, that fame began falling into our laps. Dee Dee had just finished singing for an Elks Club party. Among the attendees was a classmate of hers, Larry Welk, who told her that his father, Lawrence Welk, was starting a new television show. Larry asked Dee Dee if she and her three sisters would like to sing for him.

The Next Big Act

We all went over to the Welk home and wound up singing for Mr. Welk in his living room. He signed us up to sing for his Christmas Eve show on live national television. For the first 8 years, The Lawrence Welk Show was broadcast live at 6 p.m. on the West Coast, where it was produced, and 9 p.m. in the East. As we remember it, the show went to a live-on-tape format (with a same-day broadcast) when the show transitioned from black-and-white to color. However, from our standpoint, the change made no difference in how we approached the show. There were no cuts or retakes, so every taping was exactly as the live broadcasts were—goofs and flubs included.
Rehearsals took place every Thursday night at the Aragon Ballroom, close to our home, at a now-vanished amusement park in Venice called Pacific Ocean Park. The orchestra also played regular gigs there twice a week. We sisters got to know many of our young peers from the era, including Fabian, Bobby Vee, Paul Petersen,Shelley Fabares, Brenda Lee and the child stars of TV’s Father Knows Best. One of our great thrills came when we appeared as TV guests a number of times on The Mickey Mouse Club.We were very excited to hang out with Bobby, Annette, Tommy, Cubby, Karen and the whole gang. Because of labor laws, we had to attend school while on the set, and we were delighted to have all the Mouseketeers as classmates. Being of high school age, Dee Dee and Peggy thought this was “cool,” but not nearly so much as we younger girls, who were still in grammar school.

Staying Grounded

As for being celebrities, we didn’t think in those terms.We saw ourselves as just another couple of young girls going to parochial school with our local cousins—70 of them!—and living normal lives. Along with school, our regular routine consisted of changing diapers and washing dishes—no maids for us! As much as we loved singing, it didn’t define who we were.While we have loved performing, we feel that none of us, Dee Dee and Peggy included, had a particularly huge drive to be onstage or be in
the entertainment business.
In fact, there were moments when we made great sacrifices. Kathy missed her high school graduation and Janet missed her prom because we were touring with the Lawrence Welk band.We were devastated at the time; we just wanted to be like everyone else at
our school—just another group of kids down the street. In Kathy’s case, she received a bit of consolation. She was awarded her diploma onstage in front of a crowd of 10,000 at a Washington, D.C. theater. Jack Lennon, our father’s brother (and Kathy’s godfather), was working in the diplomatic corps as consulate general to Sargent Shriver, the ambassador to France. Jack flew in from Paris to personally present the diploma to Kathy and give her one of her most cherished memories.
The rising popularity of The Lennon Sisters also resulted in Peggy and Dee Dee, as teenagers, being teased a lot about our music skewing toward an older audience. As the younger sisters, we didn’t feel the embarrassment of the teasing in the same way.
That our fans loved our performances, we considered a blessing.
Looking back, we feel that because of our upbringing, we were well grounded, especially for being celebrity kids. None of us ever had the desire to go solo.

Who We Are

Our sense of identity is rooted in our loving upbringing, which led us to embrace the notion that “God only made one me.”We think it’s noteworthy that in talking with our siblings in the wake of the passing of our mother in 2005, we each felt that we were “Mom’s favorite.”
We never did build the dreamed-of dormitory in our backyard. Our growing family eventually moved into a larger house in Venice with six bedrooms to pack in our family’s now six girls and five boys, plus our parents and grandmother. There was still only one bathroom, but somehow we managed to make it work through a spirit of cooperation and teamwork—plus lots of love and laughter. With all of our fame, one of our fondest memories as sisters is of our father taking one of us at a time onto the middle of the otherwise empty Aragon Ballroom floor. The world-famous Lawrence Welk Orchestra would begin to play, and we would dance, with our father singing softly to us—truly magical moments for his four budding “celebrities.”

Lennon Sisters Show-Biz News

KATHY AND JANET Lennon still keep in touch with many of the people they met and worked with on The Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 to 1968, including crew and band members. They both established lifelong friendships with a number of the show’s guests, including Jimmy Durante, Bill Medley, Paul Revere, Perry Como, Sammy Davis Jr. and Glen Campbell. One of their most special relationships is with Andy Williams, whom they look upon as a big brother to this day. Tommy Cole, one of the Mouseketeers they met during their The Mickey Mouse Club appearances, later became a makeup man for ABC’s TV studios. He worked with The Lennon Sisters on numerous occasions, including their own show with Jimmy Durante, which lasted a season, from September 1969 to July 1970.
In the 1970s, the sisters performed regularly on The Andy Williams Show and toured with Williams around the country. Numerous other appearances were made on such programs as Bing Crosby’s Christmas show, The Roy Rogers Show and The Dinah Shore Show and game shows such as The Hollywood Squares, Tattletales and Family Feud.
They continued to produce music and tour in the 1980s and ’90s, performing as headliners at the Welk Champagne Theatre, in Branson, Missouri, from 1994 to 2004.
When Peggy retired from singing, in 1999, younger sister Mimi took her place. Dianne, who had left the Welk show and the quartet from 1960 to ’64 to concentrate on marriage and children, retired for good in 2001.
Kathy, Janet and Mimi continue to perform together and will join the Gatlin Brothers for a seasonal Christmas show at Branson’s Welk Resort, starting in late October.

All Dolled Up

The introduction to the public of their Best Pals dolls has been a dream of Kathy and Janet Lennon’s for many years. The cloth dolls are replicas of the ones designed and handmade by their mother, Isabelle, and grandma Nana. From childhood, the sisters recall that the dolls were the one thing they always took with them on their many travels. This has continued over the years, including their many tours with the
Lawrence Welk Orchestra, and even to this day. As Kathy and Janet moved from hotel to hotel, they always felt connected to home through their dolls. They created Best Pals as a valentine for the next generation of children and for the child inside each of us.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Did You Ever See A Dream Walkin?

"well, I diiid."

So sing Kathy Lennon and Steve Smith, strolling through the park, looking like lovebirds, in this Oct. 15, 1966 clip from The Lawrence Welk Show.

They made a cute singing team. Steve, to me, always looked like a Kennedy.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pre-'Idol' idols

Saw this article online a few minutes ago. Kathy gives an interview promoting the Lennon Sisters upcoming (tomorrow) concert performance in CA.

Pre-'Idol' idols
By Luanne J. Hunt, Special to the Press-Telegram
Article Launched: 03/23/2007 12:00:00 AM PDT


Who: With Peter Marshall, the Ink Spots, John Wing, Cassie Miller and the Harry James Orchestra

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos

Tickets: $32.50, $46 and $57.50

Information: (800) 300-4345 or (562) 916-8500

THANKS TO the golden age of television, vocalist Kathy Lennon said she and her singing siblings, known as the Lennon Sisters, have been going strong for more than 50 years. The girls got their start in 1955 on "The Lawrence Welk Show," became regular guests on the program and quickly became household names.

Although the Lennon Sisters eventually moved on to other projects, Kathy believes the exposure on "The Lawrence Welk Show" is what gave them their staying power. She said not only can her group still pack a house, but its name often shows up in places that surprises even them.

"I think we are the only singing act to become famous through television and not a hit record," said Lennon, who performs with the Lennon Sisters on Sunday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

"We were on 'The Lawrence Welk
Show' week after week, and we got imbedded in people. We're even on a Trivial Pursuit card, and it still shocks us at how popular we've become."

The Lennon Sisters' original lineup consisted of Kathy, Dianne, Peggy and Janet. (Dianne and Peggy have retired and have been replaced by the youngest Lennon sister, Mimi.) They made their debut on "The Lawrence Welk Show" on Christmas Eve in 1955, after being introduced to Welk by his son Larry.

Larry Welk, who went to school with the girls, convinced his father to let them audition for him. Kathy said Welk booked the Lennon Sisters immediately, and their stint on the show lasted 13 years.

During their time on the program, the Lennon Sisters also toured throughout the United States. They shared their wholesome pop music and soaring harmonies at nightclubs, fairs, conventions, charity benefits and churches. The group's success sparked a massive merchandising campaign, which produced everything from paper dolls to TV trays to coloring books.

The Lennon Sisters' popularity continued to grow. In addition to making guest appearances on almost every variety show on television, they sang for seven U.S. presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

In 1969, the girls hosted their own television show, "Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters Hour." Guests on the show included Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Perry Como, George Burns and Bing Crosby.

"I think people might be surprised to know that we were just normal kids from Venice, California, who happened to sing," said Kathy Lennon, 63. "We did our chores and went to a regular school. Our career did not define us as far as who we were as people. That was a real tribute to our mom and dad."

Although the Lennon Sisters were not caught up in fame, Kathy said they knew it was their calling to be in the public eye. Even when the quartet's momentum slowed, the sisters continued to perform and record.

In 1986, they wrote their memoir "Same Song, Same Voices," which provided insight into their personal lives.

Along with appearing on television talk shows to promote the book, the Lennon Sisters became regular guests on the game show "Hollywood Squares."

In 1994, they were invited to be featured performers at the Welk Champagne Theatre in Branson, Mo. Next month, the group will open its 13th season at the theater.

The Lennon Sisters' appearance at Cerritos Center will mark the first time they have performed outside of Branson since 1994. Kathy said they agreed to tour California in celebration of their five decades in show business.

Their live show will include a variety of songs, including "Somewhere" from West Side Story, "Londonderry Air (Danny Boy)" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Kathy said there also will be a video presentation of the Lennon Sisters' performances throughout the years.

Following the concerts, the girls will be on hand to greet their fans and sign autographs.

"We still have such a loyal fan base that follows us everywhere," said Kathy. "But I think because people grew up with us, when they see us now, it brings back so many memories.

"It takes them to a simpler time when TV was very new and families all sat around together and watched their favorite programs. The stories we hear are wonderful."

Luanne J. Hunt is a Hesperia freelance writer.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

another wallpaper

I opened up photoshop again this evening and decided to try the rounded corners thing which was new to me. And swirl brushes. Me likes. So here's my current wallpaper du jour, The Lennon Sisters Surrounded by Swirls. How's that for a title? ;)

Lennon Sisters Wallpaper, swirls

From Babies To Babies

I guess to the readers of this Aug. 1967 issue of Lady's Circle, it didn't seem that long ago that The Lennon Sisters themselves were little girls, and then, there they were having their own bit of a baby boom.

This was one of many cover stories the Lennons did for Lady's Circle, continuing all the way through the early 1980s. I'm not sure if there were earlier ones, but given that they mispelled Kathy's name I'm thinking this one might be the first.

As for the sisters' child-rearing beliefs, I think they are on the money. I experienced the "old wooden spoon" thing myself growing up, and have no complaints. And if you disagree, fine, but please don't send me any vehement anti-spanking diatribes, m'kay? Thanks.

Lennon Sisters, Lady's Circle magazine, Aug. 1967 Lennon Sisters, Lady's Circle magazine, Aug. 1967

Lennon Sisters, Lady's Circle magazine, Aug. 1967 Lady's Circle magazine, Aug. 1967

Lady's Circle magazine, Aug. 1967 Lady's Circle magazine, Aug. 1967

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Lennon Sisters Wallpaper

Here's my very humble attempt at creating a bit of Lennon Sisters art. Photoshop is really not my forte, but I had fun blending the pictures together, and it certainly was a pleasant distraction from the hellacious work week involving major screwups.

This makes me feel peaceful, and that's a good thing.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

photo post

I was going through some old files of Lennon Sisters clippings and decided to scan some miscellaneous pics, ads and a postcard. The one on the left I used as a blog logo, and here are the rest. :)

A nice autographed postcard.
autographed postcard 1970s autographed postcard 1970s

Cute picture of Kathy and husband Mahlon Clark.
Dee Dee and hubby Dick Gass.
Kathy and husband Mahlon Clark Dee Dee and hubby Dick Gass

A nice family portrait of Janet, husband Lee and son Billy.
Peggy and husband Dick Cathcart.
Janet, husband Lee and son Billy Peggy and husband Dick Cathcart

Dee Dee and Kathy in the rain.
The Lennon Sisters and their mom Sis in a 1977 ad.
Dee Dee and Kathy in the rain The Lennon Sisters and their mom Sis in a 1977 ad

All 11 Lennon siblings.
Lennon Sisters at work.
All 11 Lennon siblings Lennon Sisters at work

Kathy and Mahlon, Janet and Lee.
Lennon Sisters and Mahlon.
Kathy Lennon and Mahlon Clark, Janet and Lee Lennon Sisters and Mahlon Clark

Saturday, March 10, 2007

dem bones, dem bones

Here's a cute number with almost all of the Lennon Sisters performing together. Dee Dee is the only one missing from this Oct 1965 rendetion of "Dry Bones". Peggy, Kathy and Janet are joined by their little sisters Mimi and Annie.

Awww, poor little Annie was way too hard on herself for her little mistake at the end. If it makes her feel any better Janet had a minor goof in the "Chanson d'Amour number. In the first line, bar, whatever they call it, you can see she messed up a word in the lyric - instead of "play encore", she started to sing "I adore".

Yeah, I've watched that clip way too many times to notice such a thing.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Lennon Sisters clips and caps

Did y'all see the new PBS special, Lawrence Welk's TV Treasures last night? I was so excited to see new interview clips of Janet and Dianne who both looked fantastic. I thought their clips were the most fun, relaxed and honest. Not that I'm biased or anything.

As you can tell below they were having some fun, yeah.

And there were no Semonski Sisters on the show. That in itself made the enjoyment level soar.

Before I list what were the highlights for me, let me post some links.

I made a video of just The Lennon Sisters parts of the show. It was too long to upload to YouTube as one clip so I divided it.
Lennon Sisters Reminisce Part 1
Lennon Sisters Reminisce Part 2

I also took a bunch of screencaps which you can view as a slideshow if you want.

Back to the favorite was the Watusi (spelling?) number. Norma Zimmer flat knocked me out with how much fun she was having with the girls. It's a pity her humor and great laugh that Dee Dee and Janet spoke of didn't come through on most of her other numbers. And that Janet can move - wicked hip swaying, girl!

My other favorite moment was the gang's all here hootenanny number with all 11 Lennon siblings. Oh my word, that little baby of the family was such a cutiepie!

Janet talking about her dad advising her on the impression she could leave when meeting fans.

Janet and Aladdin - they were sooo sweet together.

Whaddaya know, they mentioned Kathy's first husband by name.

Dee Dee and Janet being diplomatic in describing the oddly interesting Natalie Nevins: "very unique" and "what a character". Yeah.

What else. Oh, I like how Rocky Rockwell spoke movingly of Alice Lon. I think she was pretty great myself. The early stars of the show, and obviously I'm including the Lennons here too, were so much more fun and real to me than the later members.

Good show!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Lennon Family Does Halloween

Let's just set the record straight - The Lennon Sisters and their siblings put everyone to shame when it comes to decorating for Halloween. Need some proof? Check out the video I just uploaded to YouTube.

They went ALL out, tranforming their mom's house into a trick-or-treater's motherlode of thrills and chills. Dang, I wish there had been a house done up like this back when I was a kid out on Halloween night.

Their mama cracks me up when she says, "it's a mess, but they'll clean it up."