Girls’ Singing

When I had the third girl, I knew I’d have a trio right then. As soon as Marilyn could sing, I started the girls singing together. There is a program for the ________ studio where the girls were taking dancing and on the program it lists The Worsley Sister and the year was 1939, so Marilyn was three, Joan five, and Linda, age seven.

I made all their costumes which were alike with shiny trims. Linda’s hair was usually in ringlets like Shirley Temple wore. The other two didn’t have enough hair to curl.

They sang three part harmony with Joan singing the alto part, Linda the middle part and Marilyn belting out the melody. They sang for church socials, clubs and during World War II, they sang for USO shows all over Southern California from Santa Barbara to San Diego in hospitals and on bases. They sang on platforms, outside on stages and on trucks. They changed clothes in tiny dressing rooms, in bathrooms and in the back of vans and trucks. They even went to San Diego to the Navy base hospital and went from ward to ward singing for the wounded.

(Marilyn: The sailors escorting us to lunch told us the Navy had far and away the best food of all the services. We went through the line to get our trays of food. As we sat at the tables eating, I noticed a fly jelled in my Jello. The three of us had a chance to kid the sailors about that lovely part of my lunch.)

The girls had a coach and musical arranger. He called the girls ‘The Three Sad Sacks’ because we hadn’t learned to automatically smile and look like they were having a good time on stage. This they eventually learned to do. He did arrangement of different popular songs and put together some medleys. He then taught them routines and choreography. Some of the songs they sang were ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen; a song made famous by the Andrew Sisters; ‘Once In A While’, ‘Exactly Like You’, ‘Sentimental Journey’, and others other the years. They sang a medley of cowboy songs; ‘Cool Water’ and ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ singing in white cowboy costumes I made. They also did Hawaiian songs in hula skirts with leis around their wrists and neck with flowers in our hair.

They sang in the famous Hollywood USO which was a popular spot for the service men during the War. Many movie stars appeared there to entertain or help serve goodies. The woman danced with the service men. The first show Marilyn tried to do her own makeup, she put the eye shadow below her eyes and looked like some kind of ghoul and had to redo her face. On one of the show there, the girls were singing the Hawaiian songs and as they went to bow, Linda looked off stage and the director indicated for her to go off on the other side of the stage as his side was too crowded. Linda, who was in the middle at the time thought, “I’ll just grab my sister’s hands and pull them off to the correct side. She grabbed Joan’s hand and in her rush grabbed Marilyn’s hula skirt which came off in her hand. Now Marilyn was only about ten years old and bean pole thin. To make her look a little older like her sisters, they stuffed her top with bobby socks to give her some shape. So, there she stood with her stuffed top and green pants I’d made to go under the hula skirt. The service men didn’t care. They laugh, cheered and whistled for more.

(Marilyn: I remember going to rehearse for “No No Nanette” in 1993 and as I drove onto the grounds of the veteran’s hospital Rancho Los Amigos, I had de ja vous. When I went into the auditorium and went backstage to see the stage, I had a very strong feeling I’d been there before. Later, I asked Linda if we had sung there. Linda said we did so many shows for the service men that were wounded in hospitals, it was very likely that we sang there before.)

Singing on the bases and hospitals was an experience for the girls. They would wheel servicemen on gurneys and wheelchairs to the auditoriums, if they had one and they’d do a show from the stage. Many hospitals they just went from ward to ward and a piano would be rolled to follow them so the pianist could play for them. Marilyn said she remembered it was a little scary seeing the wounded men.

The girls were once in a talent contest and were miffed when they came in second to a little obnoxious boy in a garish plaid singing “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas and You Ought to See Me Do My Stuff.” I guess the rule applies: NEVER BE ON A SHOW WITH ANIMALS OR CHILDREN!

As TV shows were just starting to take hold here in California, the girls sang on some kind of TV talent show. They had to wear very heavy makeup with black lipstick. Marilyn was in junior high school at the time and Joana and Linda attended Pasadena City College. This would have been around 1950 or so.

When we moved to Utah, they continued to sing together as a trio. They were featured performers for a big Sweet Adeline’s concert. They had their picture in the Deseret News advertising the show. When Linda and Joan were at BYU and Marilyn still in Provo High School, they did civic shows for a fee of course. They almost never got paid and if they did, people thought they were doing them a big favor by giving them each $5.

BYU was getting into TV productions and each Christmas they would do a huge Christmas variety show. The girls were on a few of those shows. They toured as a variety act with BYU show tours. Marilyn thought it great because the guys thought she was in college and she dated college guys while still in high school. They finally stopped singing together when Linda graduated from BYU in 1954. They did come back to BYU later to be featured on a Homecoming show. They did Linda’s arrangement of “You Make Me Feel So Young” which included children’s songs in modern day setting and brought the house down when they sang “Give Said the Little Stream” as a twangy country western song.