The Boswell Sisters

Listen to the Boswell Sisters on Swing City Radio

The Boswell Sisters were one of the most influential female singing trios of the Swing Era. Martha Boswell, Connee Boswell and Helvetia "Vet" Boswell hailed from New Orleans. The Boswell Sisters are remembered for their unique harmonies and ground-breaking arrangements. They attained national prominence in the United States during 1930's.  The trio was also known for fusing 'Black' and 'White' styles of vocalization and instrumentation into their music. Their collaborations with the popular swing musicians of their day including the: Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, had a huge effect on the development of Big Band Music.

Martha, Connie, and Vet grew up with formal, classical musical education. But in addition to that, their mother would take her daughters regularly to see the leading African–American performers of the day at the Lyric Theatre. These experiences would later influence their "sound". In interviews, the sisters recalled driving around New Orleans listening for new and interesting sounds, which they often found outside African–American churches and barrooms.  As the Boswell girls got older, Vet took up the banjo and Connie the saxophone. Martha continued playing the piano but focused on the rhythms and idioms of ragtime and hot jazz.

Video of "The Object of My Affection"

In 1925 they made their first record for the Victor Records. After touring with a vaudeville company through the Southern portions of the United States, the sisters arrived in Los Angeles in October 1929. They began appearing on radio programs and recording music for movies.

Their unique approach to reworking melodies and their improvisational styles had mixed reviews in the beginning.  But, as we all know, most ground-breaking artists go through that and after relocating to New York City in 1930, the Boswell Sisters soon attained national attention. They began making national radio broadcasts including a program on CBS that ran from 1931 to 1933.

Also in 1931, The Boswell Sisters signed a contract with Brunswick Records and made recordings from 1931 to 1935. The Brunswick recordings are regarded as milestone recordings of vocal jazz.  While recording for Brunswick, The Boswell Sisters had great artistic control and took greater liberties in their music like regularly changing style, tempo, lyrics and time signatures.

In 1936, the group signed to Decca, but after just three records they broke up. Connie Boswell continued to have a successful solo career as a singer for Decca. In the 1940's, she changed the spelling of her name from Connie to Connee.

Movie Clip of The Boswell Sisters singing "Crazy People"

The Boswell Sisters chalked up 20 hits during the 1930's, including their number-one song "The Object of My Affection" in 1935 (video included above in this article).  They also appeared in movie during this time as well.  When you get down to it, The Boswell Sisters were among radio's earliest stars. They were an influence to other artists as well.  The Andrews Sisters admittedly started out as imitators of the Boswell Sisters. Ella Fitzgerald, grew up loving the Boswell Sisters and idolized Connee.  The Boswell's influence can still be heard today in artists like the Puppini Sisters and others.

The Boswell Sisters in a movie clip.  Abe Lyman makes a cameo appearance.

You can hear the music of the Boswell Sisters right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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