As one of the most acclaimed, beloved and longest performing
female vocal groups in American popular music, The Lennon Sisters
are entertainment icons who have captivated audiences with their
legendary harmonies throughout a dazzling career spanning more
than 65 years.
First finding success as singing television stars when they were
mere children ranging in ages from 9 to 16, The Lennon Sisters
literally grew up in the public eye and rose to fame as recording
artists, and vibrant live performers throughout the United States.
“After 67 years, there is still nothing like sitting on a stage, and
looking at your sisters, and as we blend our voices, we just feel as
one heart,” Kathy Lennon said.
The Lennon Sisters first charmed the nation with their sweet-voiced harmonies in the pioneering days of live television. For more than a decade, 30 million television viewers tuned in every week to watch the four little sisters from Venice, California perform on The Lawrence Welk Show. Their artistry propelled them to the heights of show business, and the center of popular culture, just behind Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor as the most covered personalities of the 1960’s.
The combination of their extraordinary natural vocal talents, hardworking professionalism, striking looks, unassuming personalities and strong family values earned them a place in the hearts of millions of fans. That’s why, as youngsters, they were dubbed “America’s Sweethearts of Song.”
Concurrent with their work on television, the Sisters were popular concert artists, traveling extensively during their summers off from school to make record-breaking personal appearances and performances throughout the heartland and in every major U.S. city, both with the Welk Orchestra and as solo artists.
They enjoyed a successful recording career of more than 20 albums and over 100 singles. Their early singles, “Tonight You Belong to Me” and “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry),” were chart hits, and subsequent albums made them a frequent presence on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart while spawning turntable favorites including “This Is My Song,” “Till,” and “Autumn Leaves.” The Lennon Sisters’ TV appearances, albums and single recordings paired their lush vocals with the top producers, arrangers and musicians of the day, including Nelson Riddle, George Cates, George Wyle and featured backing by members of the fabled cadre of Los Angeles musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew” and acclaimed producer Snuff Garrett.
They starred in their very own network TV special in 1969 for ABC simply called The Lennon Sisters Show. It was one of the top-rated entertainment specials of that year and earned the Sisters their own musical variety series on the network: Jimmy Durante presents The Lennon Sisters Hour.
Their variety series, which paired the talented young stars with show business legend Jimmy Durante, proved a sparkling showcase for the Sisters’ vocal, dancing and comedic talents. During its run, the show attracted such top name guest stars as Andy Williams, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bob Hope, Perry Como, George Burns, Kaye Ballard, Desi Arnaz, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Dinah Shore, Gregory and Maurice Hines, The Lettermen, Joey Bishop, O.C. Smith, Bobby Goldsboro, Merle Haggard, Wayne Newton, Martha Raye, Danny Thomas, Mel Tormé, Rosie Grier, Lorne Greene, Glen Campbell, Jerry Lewis, Jack Jones, Leslie Uggams, Rich Little, Jimmy Dean and The Osmond Brothers.
Unfortunately, it was also during this time that the Sisters were faced with one of the darkest chapters of their entire lives. On August 12, 1969, their father, 54 year old William (Bill) Lennon, was shot and killed by a demented fan who had stalked the Lennon family for several years. This tragic event, just a few days after the infamous Tate-LaBianca/Manson murders, drew national attention and a police manhunt ensued to find the killer. The Lennon Sisters and their families were sequestered to their homes under 24-hour police protection for several weeks. Though they continued to fulfill the contractual obligations of their TV series, they would tape subsequent episodes on a completely closed set without a studio audience and stopped all other personal appearances. The killer was eventually found 2 months later in the trunk of an abandoned car filled with Lennon Sisters’ fan magazines. He had taken his own life. This is one of the first ever and most tragic celebrity stalking/murder incidents on record.
After months of being away from the public, it was only with their friend Andy Williams’ persuasion and his promise to insure they were safe that the Sisters carefully chose to perform live on stage again. They joined Andy live in concert for nearly a decade and appeared as regular special guests on his TV series The Andy Williams Show. Their critically acclaimed performances at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where the Sisters premiered a new elaborately staged and sophisticated concert act, propelled them to the top ranks of U.S. live performers.
Fans were thrilled that “America's Sweethearts of Song” had persevered through their tragedy and emerged as sophisticated ladies, transformed before the nation’s eyes. They were singing better than ever with increasingly intricate harmonies and sensitive interpretations of the works of such classic composers of the Great American Songbook as Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin. Their shows also included new solo numbers reflecting their individual styles and personalities.
This transformation was documented in their quartet-authored memoir, Same Song, Separate Voices. The book gives the public new insight into the unique, personal struggles each has faced and the challenges of four distinct individuals whose blend as a single unit is the charm of their professional identity and success. In 2011 a musical documentary, based on their book and with the same name, was produced for public television Polly O. Entertainment. It features a plethora of new and classic performances, rare home movies and new interviews with all 5 performing sisters Dianne (“Dee Dee”), Peggy, Kathy, Janet and Mimi. In November 2020, an updated version of the special aired on public television in commemoration of the 65th Anniversary of their television debut.
In 1994, The Lennon Sisters came full circle with the Welk “family of performers” becoming the featured headliners at the newly constructed Lawrence Welk Champagne Theatre in Branson, Missouri. They were in residence at the 2,200 seat theater annually for 17 seasons, marking them as the longest performing entity in that venue, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area and helping to establish Branson as an entertainment mecca.
In 1999, after more than 40 years of performing, Peggy Lennon decided to retire. Younger sister Mimi was asked to join the group in her place. Many Lennon fans recall enjoying young Mimi, a natural comedienne, performing with her sisters on The Lawrence Welk Show and later subbing for one sister or another on additional television shows and in concert.
In 2001, eldest sister, Dianne, also decided to retire. The group then became a trio and for two more decades, Kathy, Janet and Mimi continued to bring their distinct harmonies and multi-media concert showcase to theaters across the country and annually at Andy Williams Moon River Theatre (now known as The Andy Williams Performing Arts Center) in Branson, Mo. The trademark Lennon sound continued without change. It’s a fine testament to the group’s brilliant musicality, their refined interpretive skills, and the innate charm that infuses all of their performances.
The Lennon Sisters are honored to be the only female vocal group to have performed for seven consecutive United States Presidents - Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. They have a star on the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, are inductees in the National Vocal Group Hall of Fame and memorabilia chronicling their career is on view at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
In a career marked by extraordinary achievement The Lennon Sisters continue to solidify their reputation as entertainment legends by attracting new generations of fans across the decades. Whether you enjoy them in concert, on television, on YouTube or through their recordings, when their voices combine in that unforgettable familial blend you understand why their stardom has endured for more than 65 years.