At the end of this year The Lennon Sisters will mark their 60th year in the entertainment business. They will be performing Friday, April 10 at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. They first made their debut on the Lawrence Welk Show in December of 1955. WBFO's Eileen Buckley had a chance to speak with Kathy Lennon about their legacy and success.
The Lennon Sisters will appear at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Riviera.
The Lennon Sisters Biography
As one of the most acclaimed and admired vocal groups in popular music, The Lennon Sisters are entertainment icons and throughout a dazzling career have conquered all facets of show business. First finding overnight success as television stars, they continued their rise to fame as recording artists, best-selling authors and live performers in theaters, nightclubs and major performing arts centers throughout the United States, where they continue to captivate audiences with their legendary harmonies to this day.
America first fell in love with The Lennon Sisters as the "girls next door." For 13 years on The Lawrence Welk Show, the Sisters (Dianne, Peggy, Kathy and Janet), charmed the nation with their sweet-voiced harmonies. The combination of their extraordinary natural vocal talents, hard working professionalism, striking looks, unassuming personalities and strong family values earned them a place in the hearts of millions of fans nationwide. That's why, as youngsters, they were dubbed "America's Sweethearts of Song" and Americans still admire them today.
After their well-received television debut, the Sisters began a concert career, traveling extensively to make record-breaking personal appearances, both with the Welk Orchestra and as solo artists, in every major U.S. city, and throughout the heartland.
As their popularity grew, merchandising tie-ins such as paper dolls, TV trays and coloring books, began to appear. The country was enamored with these new celebrities who remained unaffected by all the attention and became role models for young women everywhere. As the quintessential American girls, they sang for seven United States Presidents, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan, an achievement that few other performers can claim.
The vocal group also embarked on a successful recording career upon the release of their first album, Let’s Get Acquainted. Their early singles Tonight, You Belong to Me and Sad Movies Make Me Cry were Billboard chart hits, and subsequent albums including The Lennon Sisters Sing Twelve Great Hits, On the Groovy Side and The Lennon Sisters Today spawned turntable favorites including This Is My Song, Till and I’m Coming Back to You. Their two holiday albums, Christmas with the Lennon Sisters and Noel remain perennial bestsellers on CD and their recorded work continues to appear within a variety of film and television projects including Johnny Depp’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and the Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito film Deck the Halls.
On television, they made hundreds of guest appearances on virtually every variety and talk show including The Mickey Mouse Club, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Tonight Show and The Cher Show.
Their first solo television special for ABC, The Lennon Sisters Show, was the top-rated entertainment special of the year and earned the Sisters their own musical variety series on the network, Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters Hour.
Their variety series, which paired the talented young stars with show business legend Jimmy Durante, proved a sparkling showcase for the Sisters’ vocal, dancing and comedic talents. During its run, the show attracted such top name guest stars as Sammy Davis, Jr., Bob Hope, Perry Como, George Burns, Desi Arnaz, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Dinah Shore, Andy Williams, The Lettermen, Bobby Goldsboro, Merle Haggard, Wayne Newton, and the Osmonds.
Building on the success of their series, the Lennon Sisters next joined The Andy Williams Show as regular special guests, and for over a decade they also appeared live in concert with Andy. Their critically acclaimed performances at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where the Sisters debuted an elaborately staged and sophisticated concert act, propelled them to the top ranks of U.S. live performers.
Fans were delighted to learn that The Lennon Sisters continued to grow more beautiful with each decade and were singing better than ever, with increasingly intricate harmonies and sensitive interpretations of the works of such classic composers of the Great American Songbook as Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Duke Ellington. Their shows now included solo numbers reflecting their individual styles and personalities.
“America's Singing Sweethearts” had transformed before the nation’s eyes into sophisticated ladies. This transformation was documented in their quartet-authored memoir, Same Song, Separate Voices. The book gave the public new insight into the unique, personal struggles each has faced and the challenges of four distinct individuals whose blend as a single unit is the charm of their professional identity and success.
Further cementing their place in the pop culture pantheon, they have been the inspiration for questions on such top game shows as Jeopardy and Family Feud, and also in Trivial Pursuit. Recently Saturday Night Live has featured a recurring skit spoofing The Lawrence Welk Show and the Lennon Sisters starring comedy favorite Kristen Wiig.
In 1994, they launched a new facet of their career, becoming the featured performers at the Champagne Theater in Branson, Missouri for 17 years, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area and helping to establish it as an entertainment mecca.
After Peggy’s retirement in 1999, younger sister Mimi Lennon joined Dianne “Dee Dee”, Kathy and Janet in The Lennon Sisters foursome. Lennon fans will recall seeing Mimi, an accomplished studio singer and natural comedienne, performing as a Lennon Sister from 1970-1975. Mimi’s TV appearances include The Lawrence Welk Show, The American Music Awards, and The Mac Davis Show and her stage credits include Caesars Palace and Sahara Tahoe with Andy Williams, and Circle Star Theater in San Francisco.
Following Dianne’s retirement, Mimi continued singing with Kathy and Janet. The group became a trio and the Lennon sound continued without change.
Still a frequent presence on television, the Sisters recently appeared on the Today show. Their classic performances on The Lawrence Welk Show are syndicated nationwide on PBS where they have also appeared on various musical specials including a well received program chronicling the early years of Welk Show performers, Easy to Remember.
This fall, a major musical documentary celebrating their performing career, The Lennon Sisters: Same Song, Separate Voices, will premiere on public television.
In 2001, marking another achievement in a stellar career, The Lennon Sisters, were formally inducted into the National Vocal Group Hall of Fame joining such groups as The Eagles, Bee Gees, The Pied Pipers, Gladys Knight & the Pips and The Chordettes.
In November 2015, they begin a two month run headlining with The Osmond Brothers, in their Traditional Christmas Show, tributing Andy Williams at his very famous Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri. They are also beautifully joined by Janet’s 3 singing and dancing granddaughters, This marks The Lennon Sisters’ 22nd consecutive season in Branson, MO.
For their work on television they were awarded a star on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, immortalizing their popularity. Their instant stardom has lasted 55 years; The Lennon Sisters are American Legends.