Program from the Desert Inn signed by the McGuire SistersInv# AU1524 Autograph
Program from the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, Nevada signed by all 3 of the McGuire sisters, Chris, Phyllis and Dottie.
The McGuire Sisters were a singing trio in American popular music. The group was composed of three sisters:
- Ruby Christine McGuire (July 30, 1926 – December 28, 2018)
- Dorothy "Dottie" McGuire (February 13, 1928 – September 7, 2012)
- Phyllis Jean McGuire (born February 14, 1931)
Among their most popular songs are "Sincerely" and "Sugartime", both number-one hits. The McGuire sisters were born to Asa and Lillie McGuire in Middletown, Ohio, and grew up in Miamisburg near Dayton. Their mother, Lillie, was a minister of the Miamisburg First Church of God, where as children they sang in church at weddings, funerals, and revivals. When they started singing in 1935, the youngest sister, Phyllis, was four years old. Eventually, they sang at occasions outside church, and by 1949 were singing at military bases and veterans' hospitals, performing a more diverse repertoire than they had in church.
The McGuire Sisters signed with Coral Records in 1952. In the same year, they appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and Godfrey hired them for his other shows, where they remained for seven years. The November 1953 issue of Cosmopolitan called them "Godfrey's Merry McGuires". The sisters often were compared to the Andrews Sisters. Maxene Andrews said in an interview with Joe Franklin on WOR (AM) radio in 1979, "The McGuire Sisters were fine once they stopped imitating the Andrews Sisters." While working on the Godfrey show, the McGuires befriended the singer Lu Ann Simms and attended her wedding to the music publisher Loring Buzzell in July 1956. Buzzell's publishing firm, Hecht-Lancaster & Buzzell Music (co-owned by Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster) provided two songs for the McGuire Sisters, "May You Always" and "Theme from The Unforgiven (The Need for Love)".
The McGuire Sisters were the Mystery Guests on the May 29, 1955 airing of What's My Line. (Fred Allen guessed who they were). In 1958, their mother appeared as a guest challenger on the television game show To Tell the Truth.
The McGuire Sisters and the Andrews Sisters met several times during their careers. Phyllis credited Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne Andrews during a television interview with Maxene in the 1990s, hosted by Sally Jessy Raphael, saying that her sisters and she met the Andrews Sisters in New York in the early 1950s and received important advice. The McGuires moved when they sang, often executing dance routines in lavish production numbers on countless television specials. The Andrews Sisters performed similarly in films in the 1940s, and were the first female vocal group to move when they sang, rather than just standing at a microphone. The sisters had mimicked that style, as well as those of the Mills Brothers and the Dinning Sisters ever since they were young, when they would perform short shows for family and friends in their parents' living room. Phyllis McGuire recounted that she and her sisters did not know any popular songs when they became famous (only the hymns taught to them by their mother), the trio imitated other singing groups long before their success.
They performed for five Presidents of the United States (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush), and for Queen Elizabeth II. In London they performed a set for the Royal Variety Performance of 1961.
During the 60s the sisters maintained a busy television schedule, making frequent appearances on popular variety programs hosted by Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Red Skelton. The trio was dressed and coiffed identically and performed synchronized body movements and hand gestures with military precision. Their recordings of "Sincerely", "Picnic", and "Sugartime" all sold more than one million copies.
They retired from public appearances in 1968, giving their last performance that year on The Ed Sullivan Show. Phyllis McGuire continued to perform solo for a time. The demise of the group is often attributed to Phyllis' long-standing personal relationship with mobster Sam Giancana (although for years she claimed that their friendship was strictly platonic), which reportedly led to the group's blacklisting.
During one of his 1960s court appearances for which Phyllis was subpoenaed, Giancana told reporters outside the courthouse, "Phyllis knows everything" about the rumored unethical behaviors of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. Phyllis has resided in a famously showcased mansion in Las Vegas for decades, boasting its own beauty parlor, a swan moat, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower which actually rose through the home's roof.
When asked by Barbara Walters during a 1980s ABC-TV 20/20 interview from within the mansion if any of the money to build the lavish home came from Giancana, Phyllis denied the innuendo, claiming that she invested heavily in oil when the sisters were at the height of their popularity. In the same interview, she acknowledged that her relationship with Giancana was in fact a love affair, saying, "When I met him, I did not know who he was, and he was not married, and I was an unmarried woman. And according to the way I was brought up, there was nothing wrong with that. And I didn't find out until sometime later really who he was, and I was already in love."
The sisters reunited in 1986, performing at Toronto's Royal York Hotel for the first time since their retirement. Numerous nightclub engagements followed in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and New York City's Rainbow & Stars, showcasing the group and Phyllis' impersonations of Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Pearl Bailey, Ethel Merman, and even Louis Armstrong.
Singing their greatest hits as part of their act, they were also featured performing specialty numbers such as the frantic "I Love a Violin", the a cappella "Danny Boy", and a segment during which Phyllis retired backstage as Christine and Dorothy shared the spotlight playing a concert arrangement of "The Way We Were" on twin pianos. Other highlights in the act were a comical Trinidad-flavored tune, a soft rendering of "Memory" from Broadway's Cats, and a "Money Medley", which they also performed live on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in 1994. Since then, the sisters had made occasional public appearances together, including in 2004, when they reunited to perform in a PBS special Magic Moments: Best of '50s Pop. The sisters' command of their vocal cords and harmonious blend, perhaps the most impressive of any trio before or since, had not significantly diminished.
After their careers wound down, they opened a restaurant in Bradenton, Florida, calling it McGuire's Pub.
They were inducted into the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2001, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They also have been inducted into the Coca-Cola Hall of Fame and the Headliners' Hall of Fame. They were inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.
The McGuire Sisters were among hundreds of artists whose tapes were destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.