If you knew the Bell Sisters when they were growing up, or have a memory of working with the Bell Sisters or seeing them perform, and you would like to share those memories, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I started looking for information on the Bell Sisters because of my deep love of their voices and music. I discovered your wonderful website and discovered things about the duo I don't remember knowing.
I am almost 70 and I too lived in Seal Beach, in a trailer park. I still resent the term "trailer trash" to this day because of my fond memories there. We moved to Huntington Beach and I went to HBHS, as did my children, small world.
My father was a songwriter and band singer. He fell in love with sisters Bell and brought home all the records. He even brought home a Packard Bell home wax recordmaker for me to use as I aspired to be the next child vocal star. What an inspiration these two exciting singers were.
My boyfriend is from Argentina and plays bass. He recognized the Latin influence on "Bermuda" and couldn't believe it was written by someone so young. He (Oscar Rospide) said a good musician absorbs many influences musically, but a great musician can interpret them in different song styles.
Lorraine (Hadley, MA)
My dearest friend from grammar school and I have resumed contact after a hiatus of 40 years, after our paths went in separate directions. One of our sweetest memories is your aunts' first record, "Bermuda." My friend remembered some words and I a few more. So I looked it up today on the computer, and came across the whole family website! Imagine my pleasure to be able to send this to my friend Judy this morning! Thank you for having it work so that we can enjoy the entire song again! I think your aunts' sisterhood, and the way Judy and I felt as close as sisters, had something to do with us loving this song for all these years (it is, after all, anything but a cheerful lyric)!
George Knuckey (Renton, WA)
A few days ago I told my kids (six of them) what I would like for my 70th birthday, as my wife of 38 years was planning a big celebration for me the coming month (April 2006).
Well, it was 1952 in England on a "Top 20" program that I first heard the song 'Bermuda' by the Bell Sisters. Although the song remained a fond memory, I never heard it again. So, what better gift than a copy of that song for my birthday.
After trolling the Web, I stumbled across your site, and the MP3 versions of "Bermuda" plus a number of other old favorites. What a refreshing style and great memories! Many thanks.
Robert E. Morris (Greensboro, NC)
I am so disappointed I had to find out about the Bell Sisters 54 years after they started. I happened to be listening last week to an old Bob Hope radio show on XM radio and the Bell Sisters were on.
It was a near-religious experience to hear the wonderful harmony they made (and so young). I turned 23, graduated from college, got married and was called to active duty in the Navy in 1951, when they started. I guess I was too busy with my new life to be into the music scene, but I don't know how I missed them. I loved the Andrews Sisters, the Chordettes,the MacGuire Sisters and the Lennon Sisters and I am sure that I would have been one of the Bell's fans.
I have been burning up your wonderful website listening to their music. I'm sure you are in touch with them, so let them know they have a late fan joining the many others.
Bette Bach Fineman (Camp Verde, AZ)
In 1952, I was in junior high school in Long Beach, a close neighbor of Seal Beach, when the record "Bermuda" came out. My older sister and I didn't have money to buy the record so we listened to it on the radio and recreated it ourselves, a capella.
Next March, my 41 year old daughter and I will drive to California to visit my sister, now 73, for her 74th birthday and I have copied down the lyrics from another site. My sister and I intend to surprise my daughter with our "rendition" of the Bell Sisters. Thanks so much for bringing back such nice memories of those days and the music we lived by. Fond regards to the Strother family.
William H. Losch (Rochester, MA)
I grew up with your aunt Kay in Seal Beach; we both attended the Seal Beach Elementary School and Huntington Beach Union High School. My family lived on 4th Street and Kay and her family lived on 5th Street. She and I used to do our Algebra homework together during our freshman year at HBHS.
My family moved back to Massachusetts during my sophomore year, in October 1955. Ask Kay if she remembers she bought a "Happy Jacket" for me when she went to Japan to entertain the troops. I have often thought about Kay, as she was a kind friend when we were both quite young.
Carole Carson (Seal Beach, CA)
I was blessed to be one of your aunt Alice's girl friends in Seal Beach for most of our lives, from toddler-hood to the end of our high school days.
I used to hang with Kay (even though I was too young) when she sang at Disneyland's Space Bar; we went a few nights per week in the summer. I had a crush on the drummer, I was about 15 years old. Kay was extremely beautiful, so poised, so very nice and full of kindness to me. She sang so well, she was a popular attraction. After the summer gigs, we drove home to Seal Beach in a dense late night fog - she looking out her driver's window as I watched the road; it was a drive with risk and I loved her big sister nourishment. Another thing I recall is that Kay tried out as host of the "Ding Dong School," a childrens' program based in LA, and she did modeling too. I believe.
ALL the family sang well. At Christmastime, they dragged me along to sing with them at caroling time. And I remember the room in their house just to the left of the front door; it was filled with black and white photos of USO tours, Bob Hope, the Bell Sisters' career. You should have seen the amazing Halloween yard decorations and yummy treats on the 5th Street house ... it was a long yard, and wonderful, not an ordinary kind of Halloween evening.
I would visit Seal Beach every few years and long to see my "extra family" again. I used to have phone visits with Sharon and I loved Judy, her sense of humor and the way she could throw a football was amazing. I attended Paula and Alan's wedding. Alice and I talked and visited and emailed for years, telling me about her son and daughter. They used to tease me back then; I was the scrawny, ugly little freckle-faced blonde kid. I could tell you a thousand stories about your wonderful family.
A Radio Listener (Davis, CA)
Late last night on the radio I heard an old program, the Bob Hope Show, from 1952, two years before I was born. It was recorded at a live broadcast from the San Diego Naval Center, and the audience was packed with hundreds of sailors. I had never heard of the Bell Sisters before, but they were soon introduced by Hope, one of the girls being 16 at the time, the other 12.
There was very funny interplay between them and Hope and the sailors. Then the Bell Sisters sang a song they wrote, called Bermuda. It was absolutely delightful, and one of the finest radio experiences I have ever happened upon.
Anyway, I found your site on the Web today, and just wanted to extend my thanks to the Bell Sisters. They were terrific! All the best.
Barbara Myers (Austin, TX)
Greetings! I returned yesterday from six days in Bermuda (my first trip there). I was reminded of the song, which I remember from my high school days, but could remember only a few of the lines and the first four lines of the tune.
Well! As soon as I finished typing the first sentence of this message, much to my surprise, the whole song played. This really brought back memories! There were two girls in the class behind me who performed the song during a school assembly. They had the rhythm and dynamics down pat.
I am an amateur musician (piano and voice), and I've worked out many old standards by ear, but I can't do this, of course, unless I remember the tune. Now this one has all come back. Thanks for the great web site!
Class of 1952, Theodore Roosevelt High School, Kent, Ohio
Bernard Schweitzer (Los Angeles, CA)
I'm so glad to read that the sisters are alive and well. It was in 1952 that I met them. I was an elevator operator in the hotel they were staying at that summer in New York City, the Hotel Astor, just north of Times Square. It was between my freshman and sophomore years at CalTech, in Pasadena, so we had California in common - although I am a native New Yorker.
The girls whiled away some time riding up and down with me, and I still have in a photo album the picture Cynthia gave me. Cynthia did most of the talking; her sister was just a little girl, of course.
It's been over 50 years since then, but I remember them well - as kids, of course. I wonder whether they remember me. Please pass this note on to them.
Paul Trefzger (San Francisco)
I was 12 when I bought "Bermuda" ... one of my first 45s. I have a collection of 13,000 45s, which includes all the Bells' great records. I was near Kay's age, so I was pre-teen when I played their songs; I really liked "Rutza Rutza," "Hang Out the Stars" and "A Fool Such as I."
I started a record label (Saxony) in the 60s with a friend and I was basically a songwriter. Our most successful act was the girl group, "The Teardrops." Their biggest selling single was "Tears Come Tumbling" b/w "You Won't Be There," recorded in 1965 in Cincinnati.
The point of all this is that my writing was influenced by the Bell Sisters, and in particular "Bermuda." You can tell that in some of my songs; especially in "You Won't Be There." I call them "island" songs, as you can almost picture the sea and swaying palm trees. A song from 1957, "In Paradise" by The Cookies on Atlanta also falls into that category.
Although there were only two of them, I can't help but hear their influence in other girl groups of the 60s, like the story songs of the Shangri-Las, the Angels, Phil Spector's girl group songs and many others. "Bermuda" may have been pre-rock and roll, but the Bell Sisters, I feel, in singing their own material and aggressivly singing about youthful angst and adult feelings were there to influence the rock era ... i.e., The Four Seasons' version of "Bermuda," among others.
Many thanks for putting the Bell Sister material out there. I have the CD set and love hearing them and looking at the pictures.
Edward Shaw (email@example.com)
Believe it or not ... I am a 62 year old teenager that was thrilled to stumble upon this site. What fond, fond memories come to mind of the Bell Sisters from my teen years in Lexington, KY. I hasten to let you know I particularly just loved both "June Night" and "Bermuda" as my all-time favorites.
What a delight in learning they are still kicking around. My heartfelt gratitude for their efforts in those days.
Fred W. Cook (Los Osos, California)
The year was 1951/1952 and I was a young Radioman Third Class in the Navy, stationed at Sandia Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
One morning visiting the Snack Bar for our usual coffee break, someone punched up "Bermuda" on the jukebox ... Wow! I was knocked right out of my chair ... What a great song, vocal concept and arrangement. I could just picture those blue waters of Bermuda.
Now 50 years later, I am the proud owner of "The Bell Sisters, The Bermuda Girls" CD. And what a joy it is to hear you both singing again; what a refreshing change from what I hear daily on our radio stations, TV, etc.
Thanks for the memories and I hope life has been very good to both of you. Musically speaking, you sure made mine wonderful.
I grew up in a very isolated Nova Scotia community. It had been a gold mining town from 1865 to 1945 and most people had moved on when I was a kid in the 1950s. A handful of us went to a one room school where my mother was the teacher. It was designated an impoverished area so we often got packages from outside sources. I guess that's how we got a copy of "Barnyard Christmas" by the Bell Sisters.
I remember playing it over and over on the wind-up gramophone at the back of the school room. "Socko the Smallest Snowball" was on the other side. I had five sisters and we spent many hours learning to sing songs, including "Barnyard Christmas."
As the years went by, it became only a memory. But when I recorded my own Christmas CD, "A Song in the Air," it was one of the first songs I chose. We didn't have a copy of the Bell Sister recording any more, of course, so we recreated it from memory - I think we remembered the whole song!
I was raised on the South side of Chicago. I had a wonderful loving family, but we had to watch our pennies - I guess many had to way back then. It was a big deal for us, me mostly, when my brother-in-law gave our family for Christmas his old Zenith stand-up radio, with a small turntable that set on top.
The previous summer, I was very "taken" by "Bermuda" on the radio. It was a big hit and I oved it - captured my imagination. I even recall one evening my brother (4 years older) was in front of the house talking to his friends who had stopped by in their car. When "Bermuda" came on the radio, I had the group "hush" so I could again absorb the wonderful words and harmonies of that song. Of course, the others enjoyed it too and were happy to oblige.
"Bermuda" was the first record (a 78) I ever bought. I loved playing my handful of records for neighborhood friends who'd stop by. One day, someone broke the record and I remember buying a second copy - extravagant for our modest family.
Over the years, I've often reflected on those times and "Bermuda" often was in my memories. In recent years, I found it on a "best of" CD. You can imagine how thrilled I was to hear it again. Also, I was later surprised to hear it in the film "Grace of My Heart." I knew then it "rang a bell" with others also.
This new CD set, with all their other songs, is a treat for me and I'm enjoying it as I write this. My best to the Bell Sisters for providing so much entertainment; it's truly appreciated.
I write to tell a curious tale about my infatuation with the Bell Sisters. This is a tale of false information, false memories and my elder surprise to learn I have been wrong for 50 years!
My buddy and I moved to Miami after I got out of the Navy in the early 1950s. One morning, as I was taking a shower in our cramped apartment, I heard on the radio in an adjoining room a haunting song performed by two young girls. I was struck by the song's plaintive quality, yet heard it sung by two enthusiastic youngsters who could not possibly know, at their age, what emotions their song evoked - lost love, aging, abandonment, etc.
I called to my friend to turn the radio up - in time to hear the disk jockey declare the song was by Patience and Prudence. I did not hear the title nor did my roommate. Over the years, certain refrains from the song have haunted me as I hummed the catchy tune.
I gave up trying to learn the name of the tune, though I sorely wished I could buy the record. Then the Internet "happened" and it was possible to learn things long buried in the dust of time.
I looked up "Patience and Prudence" and found a discography of their hits, but the song I sought was not among them. I was greatly puzzled.
Yesterday, I made one last try. This time, instead of looking for the artists, I searched for a phrase from the lyric. I remembered ..." I saw his lips in the coral". Lo and behold, I hit paydirt.
What came up was not "Patience and Prudence" but "The Bell Sisters" and their hit "Bermuda". So I have spent the morning reviewing your discography of the cute and talented Bell Sisters and reading their story. I discovered the "obscure little tune" I liked so much had been a big hit a couple of years before I even heard of it. I did not hear the popular songs of the day while I was overseas, you see.
Finding your welcome website, I was able to play the song on my PC and bring back memories of a tropical morning in Florida a half century ago when I was young and exuberant and healthy.
I wish you would tell the Bell Sisters that a fan of fifty years ago has just "discovered" them and still loves them.
Here's my strange story of how I first heard the Bell Sisters. Our family moved from Idaho to California in 1952, so I missed "Bermuda." All the radio stations in the Idaho/Utah area played was western music.
One day in 1955, I walked past the T.V. and my younger sisters were watching the Mickey Mouse Club. At that moment, "Little Boy Bullfighter" by the Bell Sisters came on and I'd never heard anything like it. I ran into my workshop, turned on the TV and my reel-to-reel tape recorder and got about half of it, plus "Bermuda" which followed.
I still have that tape, about 50 years old and it sounds it! At your site, the video clip of "Little Boy Bullfighter" brought tears to my eyes. Can't believe that song didn't get on a record.
It took 'til the early 1960s before I found "Bermuda" in a used record store. I kept searching for their records; I even have the 1958 "Honey Baby" on Brad Records. Now I have the 2 CD set from Jasmine and am enjoying it very much.
Thanks for letting me reminisce!
I'm 27 years old and grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin to older parents; they were both in their 40s when I was born. I've been singing as long as I can remember, and one of my favorite songs to sing is "Bermuda."
I discovered the song while going through their old 45s as a child and I've loved it since I was 5. When they moved out of their house in Waukesha and wanted to get rid of their old vinyl records, the only one I grabbed was that one; all the rest went to my sister who has a jukebox.
For the longest time I've feared that this great music would be lost. Then, a few years back, I went searching the Internet and found an early version of this site an was able to download a few songs from it. I came back looking for the lyrics that weren't there before, and I see they are there now!
I'm very much looking forward to getting the CD. Again, thank you for very much for keeping this site, it's wonderful.
David Baumann (Placentia, California)
As I write, I am listening to your aunts singing "Bermuda," thanks to your web site. I remember listening to this song--by another artist--as a child in the 1950s. It was a favorite of my mother's and she played it often. It was an RCA 78 record.
After I moved away, I frequently visited my parents and my mother and I would take out the old 78 and play "Bermuda." One day I arrived at my parents' house and looked for Bermuda. It was gone. My father said it had broken and he had discarded it. It was a major loss. My mother and I looked for another copy, but we never succeeded. In 1999 she died of cancer.
I continued the search, and with the help of the Internet finally located a shop in Pennsylvania that had a copy in very good condition. I ordered it, but it arrived in pieces. The label, however, provided the information that the Bell Sisters had written and recorded it--information I did not previously have.
With that information I did another Internet search and found your site. For the first time in many years, I can hear the song again. Thank you for a terrific web site--very complete!
Bob Simmons (Alamogordo, New Mexico)
I was in the Navy during the Korean "police action." I was the movie projectionist aboard the U.S.S. Algol AKA-54, an attack cargo/personnel ship carrying about 200 men, and we would play music for an hour before the movie. I fondly recall that the greatest number of requests came for songs by the Bell Sisters.
Until I visited your site, I didn't know the Bells had visited the boys in Korea - I'm sure they had huge receptions over there. Sure wish we could have seen them, but we were busy protecting convoys along the Korean coast and bringing British troops in from Hong Kong.
I kept a copy of one of their radio show appearances with Bing Crosby, transferring it from the 16" AFRS transcription disc to reel-to-reel, and eventually -years later - to cassette. I play it often, reminiscing on the old days when we were sitting off the coast of Inchon, Korea preparing to show "Singing in the Rain" and playing he Bell Sisters' records.
The girls had wonderful voices and were a class act indeed. They had a harmony and sound that has never been duplicated. It's a great website to the memory of two special people. Please give them my best.
Jack Gale (Palm City, Florida)
I was a DJ for almost 50 years and remember being told by an RCA promotion man that I was the first DJ to play the Bell Sisters' "Bermuda". My memory is hazy, but it had to be 1952; I was doing mornings in Cleveland, Ohio at WSRS. I remember the record was a thin vinyl 78 with a white DJ label.
I do remember singing along with the record. I used many different voices as characters on my show and my characters used to tell the girls how to sing the song and show them how.
I had a lot of fun with the record. I also remember playing "June Night," but after that I don't recall receiving or playing their records.
I spent 15 years in Nashville as a record producer - cut a lot of stuff for RCA, MGM Capitol, Decca - and thought "Bermuda" had such a great sound. Glad to hear both ladies are alive and well. Anything I can do on this end to help, just yell!
The first time I heard "Heartless" was at my cousin's graduation talent show. A pair of twins sang to the Bell Sisters' record. I was in grammar school and was so impressed I never forgot it.
Ian Rendall (England)
I recall hearing "Bermuda" over 50 years ago when I was in the Army in Germany. "Bermuda" was a great hit with us British troops in Spring 1952 and was played constantly on British Forces Network.
I also have a vague recollection that the BBC banned it (I'm sure they considered it risque), because it ceased to be played after a few weeks. I hadn't heard it in 50 years and look forward to hearing it again on CD.
Editor's Note: Thinking that being banned by the BBC would be a wonderful piece of history for "Bermuda", I checked with the BBC, who reviewed their archives. Unfortunately, they show "Bermuda" on their playlist at the time and not on any of their banned songlists.
Brian Crabbe (Sydney, Australia)
Congratulations on this most thorough Bell Sisters web site! I've greatly enjoyed the Bell Sisters' records since I was 12 myself in 1952. At the time, I purchased an HMV 78 of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Bermuda," in preference to Kay Starr's version of "Wheel" (though I like Kay Starr a lot too). In recent years, I've returned to collecting 8s and have been especially on the lookout for the Bells' other records. A year ago (2001), I found here in Australia, a copy of their record with Phil Harris in excellent condition.
As you may know, only 3 of their records were released here in Australia. So I've enjoyed finding 4 of the "missed" records searching in second-hand record shops in the US (found 2 in New Orleans i 1995, one in Phoenix in 1996, and another in Laramie last year). I'm looking forward to the Jasmine release (although it will take away some of the excitement of finding more myself!!).
In recent years, I've become good friends with a couple of the presenters of music of the 1940s and 50s on Sydney radio stations and they play "Bermuda" regularly. I'm hoping they'll also add "Wheel of Fortune" after the Jasmine CD comes out.
Thank you for taking so much of an interest in your aunts' music and for making that information available on the web. Best wishes
I write because I crossed paths with Kay through a friend of mine back in the early 1960s.
My friend, Kathy Burt, knew Kay through Long Beach State College. We'd go see Kay perform at Disneyland in those days, would talk with her briefly and I always found her to be a cheerful and gracious person.
In those days, I never knew she and her sister had sold so many records; although to this day, I still sing "Hambone" occasionally. Never knew that was the Bell Sisters until I read your website!
I was 14 in '51. Struck hard by "Bermuda."
In recent years, the song came back to me. I couldn't remember the exact title, nor the artists. But much of the unique and sophisticated melodic line and close harmonies haunted me. I had traveled extensively in Spain in the 60s, and in later decades lived in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It seemed to me that "Bermuda" was inspired by classic Flamenco singing, which I discovered in Barcelona; it was almost unknown in the U.S. After living in the Arabic countries, Flamenco seemed in turn to have derived from the Arabic music tradition.
Only this month, using Google.com with a few words I remembered from the lyric did I discover your site. But how could these wonderful young artists have been influenced by Flamenco, as I had suspected? Where did this unique inspiration come from? A wonderful mystery!
It was a joy to hear the song again; it had become almost an obsession. Through Amazon.com, I found a used copy of a 50's collection (only one available!) that includes "Bermuda" and look forward to its arrival.
I thought you might enjoy my adventure.
Ossie Dales (Middlesex, England)
Just in case you think The Bell Sisters are a species only common to the U.S., I'd just like to say how much I (and friends) enjoy their music in the UK. Maybe we didn't get as many of their records released over here but finding this site shortly after being able to go on line has brightened many a day. I'm Listening to "Heartless" as I write this. I've passed your site on to all my musical friends so hopefully their fame will spread 50 years on!
Steve Murchison (Long Beach, California)
I am about a year younger than Kay and went to school at Seal Beach Elementary school from 1951 to 1955; lived at 210 10th Street. I remember how cool it was to have someone famous from our little town. It's great to see the pictures and hear the songs again.
Joan Vernola (Norwalk, California)
I had to see this web site for myself; I am so glad the Bell Sisters can be heard by a new generation of listeners. I know that once their songs are out there, people will want to hear more.
In case you're wondering who I am, Cynthia's husband is my cousin. I was a fan of cynthia and Kay while growing up in Norwalk and I remember how excited I was to hear my cousin was marrying Cynthia!
Those of you that don't have the pleasure of knowing Cynthia, she is the most big-hearted, caring, loving person anyone would want to have as a friend (or, in my case, a relative). Best of luck on continuing this site.
Jimmy Walsh Doyle (Chicago, Illinois)
I discoverd the Bell Sisters' music when I lived in Chicago. A local band, "Bric-a-Brac" did a cover of "Bermuda" that was just great. It got me interested in the original material, and I also remember hearing it in "Grace of My Heart." Thanks for the site; I've been listening to "Bermuda" for the past week!
Nancy Marquart (Pasadena, California)
My sister, Ruth, and I were absolutely enthralled with the Bell Sisters' "Bermuda," learned the words and have sung it many, many times over the years. I would have been 15, and Ruth 17, when we first heard it. This has become "our" song and we have entertained many people with it these past 50 years. (I can't believe it's been 50 years - where did those years go?) We've sung it for my husband, Ken, many times; when I played it for him from your site, he was amazed and said: "You two sound just like the original." Believe me, he's being very kind.
I did volunteer work for the blind for many years and upon occasion Ruth and I would sing "our" song. One of the other volunteers has called us "The Bermuda Sisters" ever since!
When I found this website, I phoned Ruth and played it over the phone to her. I can still hear her yelps and laughter in my ears!
May I send my very best regards to your aunts and please tell them how much pleasure they've provided for us all these years. We also enjoyed their other songs equally, but "Bermuda" really did it for us!
Janis Kemper (Upper Marlboro, Maryland)
I went to HBHS, and graduated with Sharon Strother in 1955. We were all sitting around in gym class (rare) when Sharon explained how illness kept her from joining her sisters at their first performance.
I didn't have a sister, but would have wanted one who felt like Sharon did. While she regretted not getting to be a Bell Sister, she was very proud of her sisters and wished them every success.
I remember Cynthia signing my yearbook; she was so glamorous, but seemed sweet and unaffected by their fame.
Thanks for the website. The pictures brought back many memories. I still have my 45 of "Bermuda"!
I went to grade school in Seal Beach with Cynthia. One summer, while we were attending summer school at Poly High in Long Beach, she decided to audition for and appear on the Peter Potter's amateur talent show.
When she was going to be on the show, a lot of her friends drove up to Hollywood after school that fine evening in a new Buick. We packed the audience for her and she won the contest that evening. The rest is history.
Later, when she made "Those Redheads", they dyed Cynthia's beautiful blonde hair red; those of us who knew her were saddened by that - her blonde hair was beautiful.
Patti J. Palmer (Lebanon, Oregon)
I remember Cynthia from HBUHS as I graduated from there in 1952. I remember it was very exciting as a high school student in a very small (at that time) to actually know someone famous. I thought the girls were terrific; it's hard to believe they're in their 60s.
My name in high school was Pat Anderson and my other friends from Seal Beach were Marlene Wilson, Mary Jo Wilson and Barbara Lesher. My husband and 4 children and I moved to Lebanon, Oregon 28 years ago, but I still think of Huntington Beach as my home. Thanks so much for this web site.
George A. Bousquet (Bellows Fall, Vermont)
In February of 1955, the Bell Sisters entertained the troops at Smokey Hill Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas. I was picked out of the audience to appear on stage with them and had my picture taken with them. I still have the picture and it is one of my life's treasures.
Toby Hughes (San Antonio, Texas)
Just found the website and I love it. I was the same age as, and hopelessly in love with, Cynthia when the girls were at the heighth of their careers. I can still sing and play "Bermuda" start to finish. The site really takes me back to some golden days. Thanks for the effort and the obvious love put into it. And when you talk with your aunts, say "hello" from a long-ago fan.
Gratton E. Coffman (Sun Prairie, Wisconsin)
On December 29, 1953, your aunts Cynthia and Kay, accompanied by Roscoe Ates, Mary Murphy, Virginia Hall, Christine Thomas and Elizabeth Talbert Martin visited the U.S. 25th Infantry Division in Korea. The USO show these folks put on for the troops was delightful.
I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing your aunts, and even having my photo taken with them. I was delighted the other day to find my picture with Kay and Cynthia IMAGE included among those which are part of the excellent website you have put together. I had sent that photo, with others, to Roscoe Ates, asking him to pass them along to your aunts. Until I saw that photo on the Bell Sisters website, nearly 50 years later, I never knew whether the photos had reached them or not!
Enclosed are prints of several pictures I took that day: one shot of the six ladies mentioned above, one of the Bells wearing parkas, Cynthia holding a partially-eaten apple (she even gave me a bite of that apple!), and one of the Bells on stage, showing a substantial portion of the large and appreciative audience.
At any rate, congratulations on the fine job you did on the Bell Sisters web site.
George P. Cummings (Tallahasee, Florida)
I am so delighted to have found the Bell Sisters website. The sisters were a HUGE part of my coming of age in a boys' boarding school ('49-'52) and of my maturation in college during the subsequent four years.
Although, at the time, I had been singing in choruses, choirs and ensembles for some years (and have continued to do so) I attribute most of my understanding and appreciation of unexpected harmony - e.g. open fourths, fifths and diminished sevenths - to Cynthia and Kay.
I have two daughters, born in 1960 and 1962 - the elder with a Ph.D. and the younger with an M.A., who believe the only music of value and relevence is the naive, technically bereft, rhythmically unsophisticated, harmonically banal (the Beatles excepted) "music" with lyrics consciously calculated to resonate with, amplify, and exploit peri-pubescent angst.
MY DAUGHTERS NEED TO HEAR THE BELL SISTERS!! Can you help me?
Larry Whitson (Hawaii)
I went to Huntington Beach High School, class of 1956, and remember hearing the Bell Sisters, and also performing with them (I played the piano) at performances at "assembly club" and other venues at good old HBUHS.
I knew Cynthia pretty well, but remember once being driven to school by her sister Sharon and being scared to death at the way she drove. It was really fun being in school with such celebrities, although they weren't treated any different than ordinary kids. They were both really nice and not at all "stuck up" the way some big stars can be. Ah, memories.
Christie Sexton (Laguna Hills, California)
I remember singing along to the Bell Sisters' music as an 8th grader in Pasadena, then ended up going through school with Kay at Huntington Beach High School.
Just had a nice chat with her at the 40th reunion a couple years ago, and she's still as nice and down-to-earth as she always was. She really handled her "celebrity" gracefully. What a fun site.
LeRoy Blevins (Las Vegas, Nevada)
I was a proud HBUHS graduate, class of 1953, with Cynthia. Then, just a year later, while I was serving in the army in Korea in 1954 (I was in the 8032nd Army Unit attached to the 501st Marine Support Group), Cynthia and Kay arrived in December as members of the U.S.O. tour.
I took about 10 of my buddies down to the 14th Port Headquarters Battalion where the show was scheduled. It was in the afternoon, in Pusan, Korea. That's Southeastern Korea, the major port city in South Korea.
I remember it was quite a large audience, although it's too long ago to remember much specifically. But my buddies and I got to see and hear the "Bell Sisters."
They really thought that was quite a treat. And it was. Thank you for the website.
Janice G. Knowlton
I was glad to see your site up and running. I went to Huntington Beach High School with Cynthia, and we both babysat for the Huguenin family when they lived on 8th Street. I was 15 years old when Carly and Dean Huguenin moved to 5th Street, just a few houses from the Strother family. [A picture of Cynthia babysitting the two Huguenin children appeared in the June 16, 1962 LIFE magazine article about the Bell Sisters.]
Cynthia encouraged me about writing poetry after I submitted a poem for some school publication. Since then, I've had many poems published. Her kindness went a long way in the life of a scared young girl.
My family moved back to Massachusetts in 1952, but I kept in touch by mail and Cynthia sent me an autographed copy of the photo of the Bell Sisters that appears on your website. When I returned to California in the early 1970s, I worked at Disneyland for 3 years and sang in the Golden Horseshoe Revue. I only later learned from her sister, Sharon, that Kay also sang at Disneyland after her Bell Sister days.
I've told my friends about your website; it brought back wonderful memories and I loved the purity of the girls' voices. "Down in Bermuda" still comes up in my memory after all these years.
Bill Crow (Red Bluff, California)
I saw the very nice article about the Bell Sisters in the "The Greybeards" and it brought back many good memories to me.
I served in Korea with the 187th ANB>RCT and was rotated home to Westminster, California in Fall 1952. Within 2 months, I'd married Pat Jones, whose parents owned the Seal Motel, which was located several houses west of the Strother family on 5th Street in Seal Beach.
In March of 1953, Pat and I moved into the main house/office of the motel and ran it when her parents were out of town. Our bedroom overlooked the sidewalk along 5th Street and I can remember the Strother girls coming home from school, the beach, or some other activity because as they passed the motel I'd hear them humming or quietly singing some song or other with their very pretty voices. I always enjoyed hearing them go by.
Of course, it wasn't long before we were watching them perform on TV and we thought, "Wow, we have celebrities only a few houses away from us." It was fun.
Just wanted to write and let you know I appreciated reading the article and the memories of 5th Street it brought to mind. I hope the lives of all the Strother children have been happy ones.
Pat Crow (Redding, CA)
I lived at 212 5th Street, Seal Beach, from 1937 to the 1950s. The Strother family were neighbors. My parents owned the Seal Motel, which my grandparents purchased in 1927. I always knew the Strother family was musical.
My father was President of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce. At the time, we also had a home in Altadena, California; we lived next door to the President of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. My father got the idea of having a Rose Float in the Parade to represent Seal Beach. Seal Beach held a fundraising event for the float and Cynthia rode on it.
For some reason, the theme was Indian, and there was a teepee. Cynthia was supposed to wear a black wig with a long Indian braid. But she took it off at the beginning of the parade and people laughed at the "blonde Indian." My father had a nice framed photo of the float in the office of the Seal Motel, but I haven't seen it for years.
Bob O'Connor (Tucson, Arizona)
I was a huge fan of the Bell Sisters and when I heard they were heading a USO show in Pusan - where I was stationed - I knew I had to go.
A picture of my friend Jim Williams and me, taken after the show with the Bells, on Christmas Eve 1954, is enclosed. I'm on the right side, while Jim is between the Bells. IMAGE
I was from Rochester, New York and my friend Jim was from Michigan. After Korea, I was sent to Davis-Montman AFB in Tucson and lost contact with Jim. I loved Arizona and Tucson so much, I stayed here.
If memory serves me right, it was a late afternoon show and I got there hours early to be up front. The wather was cold (check out the clothes we had on). I don't know who else was on the tour, but the Bell Sisters were the headliners.
The response from the crowd - mostly GIs, plus a few nurses from other countries under the U.N. banner - was really loud, but I honestly think I was the loudest. When you consider how sound was then ("hi-fi" was THE THING) and the venue for the show - an outdoor stage - and the cold, it all came off well.
During the show I kept telling Jim, "I've got to meet these kids, they are so good." I talked my way backstage (Irish blarney) and got to meet them. When I finally got close enough to talk, the sister wearing the fur collar fatigue jacket [Cynthia] couldn't get over all the rigamarole (red tape) I went through to meet them. The four of us sat down and talked for probably 20 minutes and they wanted to know all about me, where I was from, etc.
They were as nice, friendly and gracious as you could imagine. To this day, I still listen to the music of the 40s and 50s and whenever I hear "Bermuda," I think of them. Please give them my very best wishes and thank them for a special Christmas Eve for a 20 year old kid, thousands of miles from home.
Dennis (Woody) Woodrich (Grand Junction, Colorado)
Hi ... What a surprise to stumble across the site. I played with the Spacemen Band at Disneyland Park with Sonny and John and Kay Bell. Ditto at the Domino Club (That's me on electric bass in your site's Domino Club photo, with Gary Howland playing drums).
I had graduated from high school in 1957 and the Bell Sisters were superstars. By the time I worked with Kay and Sonny, I had spent 4 years in the U.S. Navy (as a musician), played hundreds of shows and gigs, and bummed around as a wannabe jaza player. But I considered myself just a sideman, Kay was in a different class.
Those were both tough gigs ... loud and noisy and chaotic sometimes. There were fun nights, but it was nerve wracking too - especially because there was a growing demand and pressure at the park for the Spacemen to play "The Twist" and what the older guys called "rock and roll" (which usually meant play louder).
Kay made it work; she was always fun and energetic. It was a privilege to work with her, and a great memory too. I went to Europe in October of 1962 and don't remember seeing Kay since.
Eventually, I played with and arranged for the Righteous Brothers, got my degree in composition and theory and was a music professor in Colorado. Always gigging, recording, married a wonderful young freshman (half my age - 18th anniversary in 2000). Ironically, just two weeks before I found your site I was considering using "Bermuda" in a production for the local dinner theater I'm the musical director for (when I'm not playing bass and keyboards in local jazz spots)!
Sonny Anderson went on to be the #1 band leader for Disney, I believe - first at Anaheim and then in Florida; he published some very successful band music. John, who had been in the original Spade Cooley band, has passed on.
Thanks for the great memories, and please forward my very best wishes and warmest regards to Kay and the family.
P.S.: I remember Cynthia as the dream girl of half the guys at Harbor High School and Orange Coast College too!
Gregg Davidson (West Hollywood, California)
What a wonderful surprise when I recently found the Bell Sisters site. You've done an excellent job. The television & record listings are especially great.
Several years ago, a group of us got together for what we called a "Record Night Party." Everyone would bring their favorite old record or rare recording to share with the group. One of the first records brought out was a selection by the Bell Sisters. Since then, we have enjoyed several offerings.
At the recent party, last weekend [April 2000], I printed out many of the pages from your site and put together a binder to share with the group. They were amazed that such a comprehensive site existed.
We took a photo of the group, with me holding the binder (I used the January 1952 "People & Places" magazine photo from your site for the cover) and others displaying their Bell Sister records. IMAGE
Keep up the great work! I'll check back for more to come.
It was back in '51-'52, when I was stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida, when I first heard the recording "Bermuda" by the Bell Sisters. Almost 50 years later, I wanted to hear the music again--had my son search for it all over the various record outlets--with no luck. As a "green" internet surfer, I came upon your website. It was nice to hear their music again over the Internet and recapture my younger days. I thank you from the bottom of my "aging" heart.
Bob Fuoco (Dallas, Texas)
Memories may fail after 45 years, but I will never forget Christmas 1954. I was a member of the Korean Military Advisory Group and a U.S.O. show was held about six miles south of the 38th Parallel. And when I heard the Bell Sisters sing, I forgot about the cold and misery of Korea and thought about my girlfriend back home in Boston. Although I didn't get to meet the sisters personally, I was able to take some pictures when the cast remained on stage for the thousands of U.S. troops who came out of the hills to see the show. IMAGE
John C. Prescott (Orlando, Florida)
I was 17 years old and in my senior year at Huntington Beach High School, where Kay was cheerleader, Homecoming Queen and Prom Queen. Kay and her mother, Edith, were always great about rescuing strays (people, that is). They took me in and taught me how to sing, "Heart of My Heart," which I later sang to vets at the Wadsworth Veterans Hospital and on board the troop ship to Korea in 1960. IMAGE
But most important was my first date, my first time taking a girl out to dinner. Kay, finally, reluctantly, agreed to go, to be my first date. I worked to save my money to buy a nice outfit to wear on the night of the big event ... and Kay was just the best looking gal anywhere and I was the luckiest guy to be going on his first date with such a beauty.
Well, we went to a nice place up Highway 101, ordered dinner and enjoyed it all. Then came dessert. I suddenly realized I didn't have enough money to pay the bill if I ate a dessert from that expensive menu.
Kay, of course, wasn't aware of my dilemma and ordered the most extravagant dessert on the menu. It was a blockbuster dessert and she ate it all, while I sat and wondered if I would be able to pay the bill.
Finally, the bill came and I counted out my money, and wow, I had three cents left.
As we got up to leave, Kay asked me if I was going to leave a tip. Well, I told her about my predicament. When she found out I had not brought enough money for two desserts and a tip, she just said, "You should have told me. I would have helped out -- and I wouldn't have ate that dessert!"
Allison Anders, Writer/Director of "Grace of My Heart" (London, England)
How wonderful to see that my film helped spark your inspiration for this web site--this is the kind of thing a filmmaker loves to hear.
"Bermuda" was specifically put in "Grace of My Heart" IMAGE because it it meant so much to our family. We lived on the shabbier end of Bath Avenue (across 29th Street) in Ashland, Kentucky, and we used to sing it with my mother who played it on her guitar. Your aunts were such a source of pride for Ashland youngsters and especially, I think, for my mom because they came from the same town and they wrote songs (which my mom also did). And they changed their lives, and I think that was very empowering for my mom. Even now, girls so seldom have role models. Back then, I imagine, it was very hard to conceive of two young girls from a little Kentucky town writing songs and making a career.
For the movie, I only had a very beat-up, slightly warped copy of "Bermuda," which was the only one we could find. I had the entire crew looking all over the place to find a another, better one. I remember the prop master coming up to me, expasperated, and saying, "Allison, can we talk about this Bell Sisters song for a minute?" Every day she was on the case, but to no avail (this was before Ebay, of course).
In the end, we used my ancient copy of "Bermuda" for the movie and Matt Dillon played it during the scene by needle drops on a little 50s phonograph.
I'm going to lunch with Patty Kensit, one of the actresses from "Grace," and she will be so amazed to hear about all this. I've also sent my mother the link to the web site - and she was astounded.
Please let your aunts know that their legend looms large in our family; we have always thought that the Bell Sisters ROCK!
Andrew J. Lynch, Past National Director, Korean War Veterans Association
Thanks for this splended website. I saved it as one of my favorites for a memento of my time served in the regular Army in Korea--aka "Frozen Chosin." I was with the 21st AAA AW Bn (Quad Lightning), 25th Infantry Division (Tropical Lightning, after coming up from the 29th RCT, Okinawa in 1951.
I only remember one USO act and, unfortunately, it was not the Bell Sisters. I remember it was a bitterly cold day at K-14, Kimpo Airbase--now a major international airport for South Korea--where the featured attraction was Betty Hutton in nothing but a one-piece bathing suit and laryngitis due to the frigid weather. But, OH BOY, what a delight to see someone from home!
I think that everyone who came to Korea: The Bell Sisters, Betty Hutton, Marilyn Monroe, et al., deserve a medal for their courage and patriotism. I know I speak for all servicemen when I say: Thank you, thank you, we will never forget you and can only hope that you will remember us!
Stan Jones (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)
In December of 1953, I saw the Bell Sisters and their troupe perform at Kimpo AFB.
I was stationed near Sosa, Korea, about 45 minutes northwest from Kimpo. We were in the Han River Valley, I believe north of the river, on Hill 108. Sosa is no longer on the maps, so this is as close as I can get. I was a sergeant in a Ballistic Meteorological Section of the 44th Brigade, 8th Army, DS to HQS Company of the 739th AAA Gn Bn. There were 13 of us on Hill 108 and we worked 24 hours on, 24 hours off. The war was long over by December of 1953, so we had put away rifles and carried cameras. Off-duty time was as boring as it could be, given the fact that after housekeeping chores were finished, the only options were reading, writing, or staring at clouds. So, for a lot of reasons, our squad jumped at the chance to see a U.S.O. show in Kimpo.
We set off in the morning - I don't remember eating - and arrived in time for some good seats in a large building, probably a hanger. I honestly cannot remember the show itself, just the emotions it created. I was 24 years old that December, while your aunts were about 17 and 13. I remember feeling several decades older.
After the show, they, Rosemary Murphy (an attractive blonde), and I don't know who else, met with some of us in back of the building and we talked with them as we took pictures. The chatting was a whole lot of fun until several officers broke it up, probably to maintain a schedule. My film had to go back home to the States to get developed and I was due to leave Korea in January, so I didn't see the pictures for several months, but they all came out. I still have tucked away three or four 35mm color slides of your aunts and Ms. Murphy, which I will be glad to send to you (you can see that I remembered all of the ladies but have no idea who any of the men in the show were). IMAGE
Would you thank your aunts for me for the visit they made to us? They have no idea how welcome their visit was to me and others in my squad. I was about to spend my second Christmas in Korea, having been there almost 18 months. They were a breath of springtime.
Frank Praytor (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
I was a reporter/photographer with the Pacific Stars and Stripes when the U.S.O. troop featuring the Bell Sisters arrived in Tokyo in 1953. I took an 8 x 10 photo of the Bells with Roscoe Ates and Dick Contino (and an unidentified guitarist) at the Imperial Hotel. I believe the article and photo ran in the paper the third week of December, 1953. I regret I have very little little memory of my encounter and interview. Roscoe Ates was a big cut-up and they seemed to appreciate his clowning. Their movements that day were a combination of frenzy mixed with fatigue following a long, prop-driven plane ride from the States. I didn't spend much time with them.
They wouldn't remember the Marine sergeant who interviewed them and took their photo, but please convey to them my high regards and best wishes. (I always wondered why I saved that picture. Now I know why.) IMAGE
Carlton Sauder (Grabill, Indiana)
I was with the 25th Division Photo Unit and took a photograph of the Bell Sisters in Korea in 1953. They were at the 35th Regiment on the front line. I am sending it to you. IMAGE
C.J. (Skip) Rittenhouse (Columbus, Ohio)
Indeed I do remember the Bell Sisters. I was electrified the first time I heard that opening line "DOWN IN BERMUDA". I was in college at the time but will never forget how the song became a favorite the very first time I heard it. Usually songs had to grow on me, but not this time, BERMUDA hit me between the eyes.
A year or so later, when I was in Korea, I heard they would be touring and I made sure that I would be there if they came to our area.
Yes, I remember your aunts and I want them to know that never did they have a more appreciative audience that they did that evening.
Van White (Huntsville, Alabama)
I was a young airman serving on a B-29 bomber crew during the Korean War when I first heard the Bell Sisters. Many years after this time in my life, I wondered where I might find the one song which was my favorite and which I remembered so well: Bermuda. I had essentially given up and then I noticed your note in the "Looking For" section of the Korean War Veterans Association publication, "The Greybeards".
Now I can continue to enjoy Bermuda and all the other songs and items on your web site. Many thanks from a lifelong fan of the Bell Sisters.
Andy Barr, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Unfortunately I didn't get to see them in person, but I did kind of follow them for a while (I was 18 then) - "Bermuda" stayed with me a long time.
My (very) short story: I was aboard the USS Charles J. Badger DD-657, moored starboard side to what was then the Destroyer Repair Base at San Diego, California. It was December 1951, Christmas time, and many of our men were on holiday leave.
I had the mid-watch (midnight to 4:00 a.m.) on the quarterdeck. It was a particularly tedious night, with some fellows coming back from liberty a bit "Christmas'd out" while I wasn't feeling so tip top myself. All in all, when I hit the hay a little after 4:00, I died ...
What eventually brought me out of a heavy dream was the Bell Sisters and their "sailing on a coral sea ..." coming over the ship's "entertainment system" (one radio receiver patched into all the speakers in the crew berths). That was about 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon (Sunday would have been the only day I could have gotten away with a sleep-in like that).
Anyway, you may pass along to your melodious kinfolk that, unknownst to them, they were my reveille petty officers that day. Obviously, "Badger and Bell" remain a pair for me - thinking of one always begets the other.
-- Excerpt from "My U.S.N. Years" at www.ironbarr.com/usnyears
Kay Strother (Age 12)
My pet peeves are orchestra leaders and the musicians hired to play for fairs and theatres. Please don't misunderstand. I mean the ones that the union hires to fill in where there is not a regular band. For one thing they don't take their work very seriously, for another thing they make changes and marks on the music which wreaks [sic] it for the next orchestra. Sometimes if were [sic] going to do a show some of them don't pay attention to the conductor, so while Cynthia and I are singing our best the orchestra is making blats and toodles where they shouldn't. Knowing how the music goes in our act Cynthia and I get tickled and laugh on the stage when someone in the band makes a real noticeable error, but it's all in a days [sic] work and sometimes gives us fun.
Jackie Ellingsen (Covina, CA) and Barbara Short
In 1952, when I was in high school in South Pasadena, CA, my girlfriend and I were great fans of the Bell Sisters. We had memorized some of their songs and would sing along and imitate their voices. We even called ourselves Eht Lleb Sretsis (The Bell Sisters, backwards). My girlfriend is celebrating her 40th wedding anniversay soon and I would like to purchase a tape or recording of some of their early songs to give her as a remembrance of those fun times of years ago.
Charlie Cosper (Sacramento, CA)
I knew Cynthia for one year, 1956, when we attended OCC [Orange Coast College] together and played in the dance band, "The Riffs." We had a great college band: several trumpets, trombones, saxes, a piano, bass and drums.
Cynthia played piano and was occasionally our vocalist. To my knowledge, no one in the audience at the many college dances we played for (we didn't play at OCC, but almost weekly at "nearby" colleges - Fullerton, etc.) knew who she was ... and that was the way she wanted it.
The guys in the band adored her because of her sense of humor. Whenever someone said something she didn't approve of, she would hold up her fist and say, "YOU SEE THIS?" ... and everyone would burst out laughing."
I know there's a picture of our band in the 1956 OCC yearbook, with Cynthia in front doing the vocals. She wrote some silly stuff in my yearbook and I wrote something in hers; unfortunately, my copy has long since disappeared.
I also remember very well Cynthia pounding out a new song called "I'm Not Gonna Fall in Love Again" on an upright piano in the den of her home in Seal Beach, after a party for the Riffs, in 1956. I enjoyed hearing it again on your website; it brought back a lot of fond memories.
Excerpts from notes made by Edith Strother, their mother
Being new to show business: During one of their numbers at an outdoor coast-to-coast show, Kay became interested in a bird flying by. She turned her head to watch it lazily wing by, going completely off-mike until the bird flew out of sight. Another time, in Las Vegas during an impromptu outdoor show, one microphone got in Kay's way, so she nonchalantly moved it aside. Consequently, the Bell Sisters sang in the park that day, but not over the radio as announced.
Also, like all sisters, the Bells would get into arguments and the sound technicians on radio or TV or at the recording studio would get to hear some choice phrases fly back and forth before the situation was settled, or one or the other remembered to pull her sister back out of range of the mike. The argument would generally end in a joke to all when the girls realized they'd been overheard.
Finally, once when they were caught on stage at the Bing Crosby show with gum in their mouths, they plunked it down on the mike at the start of their number. But, they forget to collect it again when they went off. Later, when Mr. Crosby introduced Kay Starr to the audience, Ms. Starr saw the two wads of gum and said - "Ha! I can see the Bell Sisters were just here.
New foods: When the girls were first caught up in this whirlwind business, they were a little timid in ordering and eating new foods. For the longest time, Kay would never order anything but ham and eggs; whether we were eating at a drive-in or the Brown Derby. Now, after nearly two years in show business, they will both quickly scan the menu and pick out the little section where the prime rib, the filet mignon and the New York cut are listed. They have learned to ask the waiter for the "special" salad, the "special" crab cocktail, the "special" onion soup; they love trying new taste treats - pizza, ravvioli, almond chicken. But their favorite, if they really have a choice, is a meal consisting of two hamburgers (that's two hamburgers each) with everything, a chocolate malt and french fries. Just two normal American girls.
Dealing with "fame": No one in the audience at their first 3-D picture laughed harder than these two. Especially Cynthia. When Kay made a funny, frozen smile on the screen, her sister laughed so loud I was afraid they'd put us out of the theater. Afterwards, they judged their own perfromances sternly and discussed freely the parts they didn't like. Kay commented that her black roots were showing (she had her hair dyed blonde for the part). This worried her. School friends were a little unkind, perhaps without realizing it, about her bleached hair. Being accused by anyone of "going Hollywood" is probably the bitterest pill administered to them by anyone. Fortunately, very few have ever accused the two of this.
One of our neighbors was remaking the other day about Kay being accepted as one of the gang. She and Cynthia had just returned from Seattle where the two girls were the principal personalities at the world premiere of "Those Redheads." They spent three days being filmed for newsreels, signing autographs, welcoming returning Korean vets, being photographed with the Mayor of Seattle, receiving a police escort through the city, and being introduced on the movie theater stage at the premiere showing. But just days later, Kay was back home in a pair of old jeans having a grass fight in the front yard with some neighborhood kids.
Cynthia didn't have it quite as simple. A few weeks ago, in fact, when she went for a physical examination at the local junior college, so many heads were peeking in the office doors and windows that the exam ended in a near riot. The doctor and other girl in the office for an exam could not understand the confusion. Cynthia had to apologize and grab her clothes and run. She ended up taking night classes where nobody recognized her.
Betty [Peters] Love (Anza, California)
I lived in Seal Beach from 1953 until after I graduated from Huntington Beach High School, Class of 1958. I was in Kay's 8th grade class at McGaugh School and stayed a good friend all through high school (in fact, I just saw her at our 40th high school reunion in Irvine).
When Kay was in the 8th grade at McGaugh, most of the girls in our two 8th grade classes had a "Come As You Are" party very early in the morning. We would go around to different girls' houses and get them out of bed to come to the party "as they were," which wasn't always too beautiful. When we went to Kay's house, she was willing but Cynthia had a fit and wouldn't hear of leaving the house until she put makeup on and dressed up. She said, "I have a public to face."
I also remember in the 8th grade when Larry Leonard, a mutual friend of ours, told Kay how babies were "made." Kay was just horrified and shouted, "My mother and father never did that!" What a laugh we had at that poor, mortified girl.
Wayne Brasler (Chicago, Illinois)
Regarding "Bermuda." I knew about the record but hadn't heard it till I went to a teenage party at the YWHA (Young Women's Hebrew Association--yes, there was such a place in my native St. Louis, in a massive building that was bustling with activity) and there on the jukebox was "Bermuda" by the Bell Sisters and Henri Rene. I got them to play it and was spellbound. The sound was so unusual, the melody was so unusual, the lyric was so unusual. I NEVER HEARD THE SONG AGAIN TILL MY FRIEND MADE ME A BELL SISTERS CD LAST YEAR (from their 45 rpm records) but I could always sing it word for word, note for note. I did have the Linda Scott recording. So strange, when I heard the Bell Sisters again after more than 45 years the record was EXACTLY as I had remembered. Now I can play it, and all the other Bell Sisters recordings, all the time and I do. A dream come true.
John Connors (Chicago, Illinois)
My "Bermuda" story is a little odd. About five years ago I had written a musical (based on the movie "Psycho"). It was opening night and I was going crazy. Also Chicago was in a horrible heat wave. So, altogether, I was incredibly frazzled. That afternoon a friend of mine thought I should get away from thinking about the play and go shopping, so we drove to the suburbs to a store where they sell old radio shows. On the way there, an AM station was playing an old Bing Crosby show (one of the shows you have on your web site). Well, the Bell Sisters came on and sang Bermuda. I told my friend to pull over. I couldn't believe that I never heard this song or of the Bell Sisters. I was completly blown away. And it started my search for this song and the Bell Sisters.
I called my friend Wayne Brasler. He knows everything about every song every recorded, and he gave me a little history. But the song still eluded me. Finally, at a record sale I found two copies of it on 78 rpm. I was completely in heaven. I played it for everyone who came over, spreading the Bell Sisters word.
Anyway, in the last two years I have been in a band called Bric-a-Brac. We are sort of a throwback to bands like the We Five or The Association; I like to say we are sort of John Mellencamp meets Andy Williams. We have been playing "Bermuda" for the last two years, always a crowd pleaser. IMAGE
We are currently planning our first CD and have been wanting to include "Bermuda" on the CD. We have a demo of the song and I would love to send you a copy to send to your aunt. I would love her to know that her music is still lives and is as fresh as ever.
Howard Butler (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
I first heard "Bermuda" by the Bell Sisters on the radio one night in January, 1952. I was 13 years old, living in North St. Paul, Minnesota. It was one of the most unusual, haunting songs I had ever heard. After all these years, it still is. "Bermuda" by Cynthia Strother is an American pop music classic. The Bell Sisters' recording is a perfect union of words, music, singers, orchestra and arrangement. I only wish they had recorded many more songs.
I am old friend of the family; they lived just up the street for many years. Rex (Cynthia and Kay's brother) and I were good friends for many years. Ask your aunts if they remember a little wild kid by the name of Tommy Campbell, who spent many hours at the Strother house. Those were always good times, except when Mr. Strother tricked us into working. They are a great family and I have very fond memories of my times at the Strothers - eating, fighting, and yes, singing. Thanks for the memories.
Bill Kenney (Jamaica, New York)
Howdy! I must have been 10 when I heard "Bermuda" on the radio in '51, and the song stayed with me all these years. I recently bought a copy of it on one of those compilation CDs. Listening to the song, I wondered if the girls did anything else, and your wonderful web site shows that they did. And they worked with Spike Jones, wow! I also liked the photos and all the demos. Terrific!
Charles Barker, Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (March AFB, California)
Thanks so very much for the [Jubilee] program. Famous AFRS voices there, too, besides your dear aunts. And a dedication to a GI in Austria. Things weren't as nice there then as they are now, thanks to those guys in uniform. And thanks to the Bell Sisters for helping to maintain the moral and readiness of the troops. It was a pleasure to hear the voice of the famous Don Wilson and, one of our long-time announcers, Bill Stewart, who we all loved; Bill died in 1992.