Date of Birth: 5 May 1924, Bethnal Green, East London, UK
Birth Name: Joycelyn Chinery
Nicknames: Joy Beverley
Joy Beverley was the eldest of the Beverley Sisters, a singing trio that found fame in the pre-rock and roll era with novelty songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Little Drummer Boy.
The girls, Joy and her younger twin sisters Teddie and Babs, were famous for the identical clothes in which they always performed and their carefully rollered blonde hair-dos. Millions of Britons grew up with their close-harmony rendition of songs including Ferry Boat Inn; Sisters (written by Irving Berlin); How Much is That Doggie in the Window?; and Little Donkey. For more than a decade they broke box office records as the highest paid female entertainers in Britain; they became the first British girl group to break into the American Top 10 and entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2002 as the world’s longest surviving vocal group without a change in line-up.
As well as pop hits, for seven years during the 1940s and 1950s they had their own BBC television series , and they frequently topped the bill at the London Palladium, alongside such stars as Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Max Bygraves, taking part in several Royal Command performances.
In later life the sisters were sometimes described as the Spice Girls of their day, and the parallels were not just musical. When, in July 1958, Joy married the Wolverhampton Wanderers star and England captain Billy Wright, it caused almost as much hysteria as the nuptials of Posh and Becks, although the venue, a register office in Poole, Dorset, was rather more modest than the medieval castle chosen by their modern counterparts.
The wedding was meant to have been secret, but news leaked out and thousands of people converged on the town. “Police, taken unawares, were unable to deal with the traffic, despite a call for reinforcements,” reported The Daily Telegraph. “People stood on walls, climbed fences and trees and sat on roofs of cars. They sang, 'For they are jolly good fellows’ and brandished football rattles. Two girls fainted. Several others, including one of the bride’s sisters, Teddie Beverley, lost shoes in the jostling crowd.”
Like the Spice Girls, too, the Beverley Sisters sometimes gingered up their performances with more risqué fare. Songs with titles such as We Like To Do Things Like That; It’s Illegal, It’s Immoral, Or It Makes You Fat, and British pop’s first covert paean to contraception, We Have To Be So Careful All The Time (which was banned by the BBC), helped to maintain their appeal into the 1960s.
Although Joy and her sisters went into unofficial retirement in favour of full-time motherhood in the late 1960s, they returned to performing when their children had grown up. In the 1980s they emerged as icons on the gay cabaret scene after appearing for a season of all-gay nights at Peter Stringfellow’s Hippodrome in London, where their cheerfully bitchy anthem Sisters (“Lord help the mister / Who comes between me and my sister / And Lord help the sister / Who comes between me and my man”) brought the house down. They continued to perform into the new millennium, singing for the Queen at her Golden Jubilee Concert in 2002 and taking part in the the 60th anniversary celebrations for D-Day in 2004 and for VE Day the following year.
Joy Beverley was born Joycelyn Chinery on May 5 1924, Bethnal Green, East London, UK.
Three years to the day before her younger sisters, Babs and Teddie. Their parents, George and Victoria, performed in musical halls as “Coram and Mills”, and the family lived in a two-up, two-down in the Homerton district, near Hackney, where the girls shared the same bed until they were teenagers.
During the war, the girls were evacuated together to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, where they amused themselves by singing close harmony. Spotted by a man recruiting for the “Ovaltinies”, the harmony-singing advert for Ovaltine on Radio Luxembourg, they soon caught the eye of Glenn Miller and went on to record with his orchestra at the BBC’s secret wartime studio in Bedford. Having signed their first contract, with Columbia Records, in 1951, by 1952 they were starring at the London Palladium. The following year they had their first Top 10 hit with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which reached No 6 in the charts.
In 1953 the sisters made their debut in the US, performing on NBC with the Glenn Miller Band (Miller himself being presumed dead in 1944, having disappeared after heading out over the English Channel on a small aeroplane bound for Paris). Three years later they broke into the US charts with their version of Greensleeves. In the late 1950s they made a coast-to-coast appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, their host pronouncing them “sassy, but classy”.
At the time Joy married Billy Wright in 1958, the Beverley Sisters were reportedly earning £1,000 a week. Billy, by contrast, was never paid more than £24 a week by Wolverhampton Wanderers , and in more than 100 matches for England he never walked away with more than £60. As Joy recalled, the life of a footballer’s wife in the 1950s was very different from what it became in the high-rolling 1980s and 1990s: “'We were boringly well behaved, and loyal. In marriage you have to keep telling yourself that your husband is very important. That is not fashionable now, is it? I am disappointed at the way some women behave.”
The disparity between their earning power seemed to have no effect on their relationship, however, and they remained happily married until Billy Wright’s death in 1994.
The Beverley Sisters enjoyed their late-blossoming status as gay icons, although Joy complained to an interviewer that their cabaret audiences wore “more make-up in an evening than we wear in a year”.
In later life the sisters lived in Totteridge, in three near-identical next-door houses. When in 2006 they were awarded MBEs in the New Year Honours, they turned up at Buckingham Palace in identical white suits with pink hats and scarves.
Date of Birth: 16 February 1918, Anglesey, Minnesota, US
Birth Name: Patricia Marie Andrews
Nicknames: Patty Andrews
Patty Andrews was the lead singer and soloist with the Andrews Sisters. The swinging American trio, comprising Patty and her older siblings, LaVerne and Maxene, achieved their greatest success in the 1940s, contributing to the war effort with catchy songs including Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) and, with Bing Crosby, Don't Fence Me In.
The Andrews Sisters performed at military bases and raised money for war bonds; their hits were sung by the troops and by women working in factories. Patty, LaVerne and Maxene accompanied the most popular singers and big bands of the day; enjoyed success not just on radio but also in musical comedy films; and spawned a host of other sister acts not all of whom were real siblings.
Patricia Marie Andrews was born in Minnesota, the third daughter of a Greek immigrant, Peter (who had anglicised his surname), and his Norwegian wife, Olga. The parents ran a restaurant. Inspired by the success of the Boswell Sisters, the pretty, blonde Patty and her siblings began in vaudeville in the early 1930s. "There were just three girls in the family," she recalled. "LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene's was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts." The sisters toured America with the Larry Rich band and before long were starring at the Hotel Edison in New York with Leon Belasco.
The Andrews family relocated to New York in 1937 and the sisters were offered a recording contract by Decca. Things took a momentous turn when they recorded Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin's revamped version of an old Yiddish standard. It reached No 1 in the US in 1938, establishing Cahn and Chaplin as ace songwriters and making the Andrews Sisters the hottest name in the record business. The song has now come to be emblematic of the age often used when a film or TV drama deals with the era of jitterbugs and evacuation, to say nothing of Land Girls, who sang it as they stacked the hay.
Further hits followed for the trio including Beer Barrel Polka and Hold Tight, Hold Tight (both 1939) and in 1940 they were signed by Universal Pictures and appeared in the film Argentine Nights with the Ritz Brothers. They then made two wartime comedies starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Buck Privates and In the Navy (both 1941), and also appeared in Private Buckaroo (1942), which followed new recruits doing their basic training and included the sisters' patriotic We've Got a Job to Do. The sisters appeared as themselves in the all-star film Hollywood Canteen (1944), about the ever-open cafe for American servicemen, founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield, and where Hollywood celebrities volunteered during the war. The sisters' voices were also featured in the Disney cartoon Make Mine Music in 1946.
After the success of the uptempo Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar and the sentimental ballad (I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time, the sisters accompanied Crosby on a No 1 hit, Don't Fence Me In, in 1944. It was one of several successful collaborations with the crooner, including Pistol Packin' Mama, Jingle Bells, Is You Is Or Is You Ain't (Ma Baby) and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. The sisters also appeared with him and Bob Hope in Road to Rio (1947). Danny Kaye partnered them on, among others, The Woody Woodpecker; and with Carmen Miranda, the trio sang Cuanto Le Gusta. By themselves, the sisters had number one hits with I Can Dream, Can't I? and I Wanna Be Loved.
In many ways Patty was the most successful member of the group. Certainly, her solos made her the most prominent sister. In the mid 1950s she broke away from the group, but people still wanted more of the Andrews Sisters and they were soon back together.
It was the death of LaVerne in 1967 that eventually broke up the group. In the early 70s Bette Midler had success with her recording of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and people once more went looking for the original, which had a renewed success. In 1974 Maxene and Patty were back in business, starring in a Broadway musical, Over Here!, about the group's wartime success. The show featured a third "borrowed" sister and ran for almost a year, closing after the sisters had an argument. Patty, who had solo success in Las Vegas and performed on cruise ships, continued to work after Maxene's death in 1995.