Aug 032014

Our story begins on the Dinning family farm in Oklahoma. There were nine children, five girls and four boys (though how many were born in Oklahoma, I cannot say – I know that eventually the family ended up in Nashville). The children were named Donald, Vernon Kermit (“Ace”), Myron Wade, Geraldine Marvis, Ella Lucille (“Lou,” 1920-2000), twins Eugenia Doy (“Jean,” 1924-2011) and Virginia (“Ginger,” 1924 – 2013), Dolores Mae (“Tootsie”) and Mark (actually named Max Edward, 1933-1986). The father, John Boyd, was forced to sell the farm, due to the Great Depression, but he found work as a salesman for Maytag and as a result ended up moving the family several times. Apparently Patti Page lived close by the family in OK and was an occasional babysitter.

Having gained singing experience in their church choir, three of the sisters began to experiment with a tight three-part harmony style which they demonstrated to their mother, Bertha Ethel Riggs, boasting to her that they could sing like the Andrews Sisters. Thus, the elder sister, Lou, and her younger twin sisters, Jean and Ginger, began a singing trio called the Dinning Sisters. They entered singing contests and won, scored their own local radio show and toured with one “Herbie Holmes Orchestra.”  In search of greater fame, they moved to a one-room apartment in Chicago by the late 30’s, living with their brother/chaperone/manager Wade, where they were just about destitute until the sisters’ musical talent, persistence and beauty led them to become a popular club act (“Chicago’s highest paid”), and regular guests on NBC radio shows made in Chicago.  With this success, they decamped to Hollywood, where they appeared in several films.  The sisters signed to Capitol Records as the label’s answer to other groups such as their role models the Andrews Sisters, the Lennon Sisters and the McGuires.

Here is their biggest hit, “Buttons and Bows,” recorded in 1947, this song spent 16 weeks on the charts, reaching the #5 spot:

For more of a visual, here is the trio singing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” two twin girls and their older sister at the height of their fame and glamour.


  9 Responses to “Mystery Date Revealed!”

  1. ladymisskirroyale

    Interesting and informative. Thanks for doing all that research and broadening our horizons.

  2. diskojoe

    Shelby Singleton is actually the name of a country music label owner who bought the rights to Sun Records from Sam Phillips in the late 60s, as well as putting out records by Orion, who was alleged to Elvis performing under a mask. Great article.

  3. cliff sovinsanity

    Interesting story. Will we see a book in the future?

  4. cherguevara

    Definitely a book. Simply print this post, then staple the pages together!

  5. misterioso

    Standing ovation. Outstanding work, formidable research, quite a story or set of stories. Very impressive.

  6. THAT is some musical family roundup! Thanks, and thanks for reminding me of “Teen Angel,” a song I always dug as a kid.

  7. cher, I meant to ask you what spurred your deep interest in this family? Did you connect the dots starting at the beginning of the story, or did that Mystery Date clip lead you to work from the middle out?

  8. cherguevara

    Not sure how it began – I knew one song by the sisters, kind of at random. One day I had the songs “The Streets of Laredo” and “El Paso” in my head and while surfing around, came across “Teen Angel” and I wondered about the connection.

    The sisters’ wikipedia page also connects the dots. Everything I wrote here is really semi-unsubstantiated hearsay of the internet. I think they are still local heroes in Missouri and so I have a feeling that anybody over the age of 60 in MO could tell you more than what I wrote here.

  9. cliff sovinsanity

    Yeah, but I want more details. Besides my printer is having a tough time with those You Tube clips.

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