This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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RADIO'S MUSICAL DARLINGS:
PATIENCE AND PRUDENCE
By Cort Vitty © 2014
(From Radio Recall, Issue Date)
Fourteen-year-old Patience wore braces, while eleven-year-old Prudence sported a pony tail. Late in the summer of 1956, their novelty rendition of an old standard, Tonight You Belong to Me, soared to the top of the Billboard charts. Plenty of AM radio airtime turned the charming young sisters from California into overnight sensations. Cash Box Magazine would ultimately vote Patience and Prudence the most promising new vocal group of 1956.
Patience was born on August 15, 1942 and named after a woman who authored poetry for The Ladies Home Journal, in the 1920s. Prudence arrived on July 12, 1945; her name was selected as one that fit with her older sister's. Both girls shared Ann as their middle name. As youngsters, the girls studied piano and learned to read music. Texas native Mark Mcintyre was the girl's proud father. He played piano at the age of five, became a band member at twelve and was on radio in Houston at fifteen. Blessed with perfect pitch, he earned his living as a successful pianist and composer, while also serving as Frank Sinatra's West Coast accompanist during the 1940s. Audrey, the girl's mother, sang as part of a trio in high school.
On a sunny day in April 1956, the family was returning to their North Hollywood home, after a day at the beach. Passing the time while riding in the backseat, the girls started playfully singing songs they learned the previous summer at camp; part of the fun was mixing lyrics and tempo. Mark turned to Audrey and suggested taking the girls to the studio. "We'll have a little extra studio time and the kids can cut a platter to send to grandma."
On the day of the session, "A Smile and A Ribbon" was recorded. A second tune was needed for the flip side and Audrey recommended the girls once again perform their hybrid version of "Tonight You belong To Me". In addition to a gift copy for grandma, extras were pressed for the girls to play at home. The proud parents couldn't help but play the record for friends Ross and Armen Bagdasarian of Liberty Records. They really liked what they heard, and insisted the recordings be played for Liberty co-owner SI Waronker.
Waronker gave his blessing to release the record commercially on August 25, 1956. Not much happened for six weeks, until a Boston disk jockey decided to play it; airtime in Cleveland and Chicago soon followed. The family was vacationing at Yosemite National Park, when Mark called the office to check on record sales. "Haven't you heard?" "Boston has ordered 4,000 copies - that's fabulous for a first order." Ultimately, the record sold close to a million copies and rose to number four on the charts, spending 17 weeks in the top 40.
"Tonight You Belong To Me" was originally an old Billy Rose tune; appropriately, the old impresario earned royalties from the girls' version. The song was recorded four times, with all four tracks becoming part of the final record, as Prudence explained: "You see, our voices are very small and weak. We repeat the song four times; listeners hear eight voices, not two."
Patience and Prudence paper-doll books were next on the market, earning the sisters a $1,000 down payment toward a trust fund for college. The sisters were deluged with requests from television and nightclubs, including an offer to perform in Las Vegas for $5,000. Mark declined on behalf of his daughters - commenting: "D'you think I'd let my kids play in a saloon?" Audrey remarked: "And there went my dishwasher and new refrigerator and stove." Mark added: "I've always maintained that Patience and Prudence would grow up, in as normal surroundings as possible. I don't want them to be typical show business kids."
Offers came in from Dinah Shore and Ed Sullivan. The sisters appeared on The Perry Como Show, assisted by two chorus singers (off-stage) helping to compensate for their tiny voices. During another engagement, Audrey provided the supplemental background singing.
Their second record "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" was released on December 1, 1956 and went on to became another big hit. It was on the Billboard chart for twelve weeks, reaching a high position of number eleven. The flip side of this one was "The Money Tree", written and arranged by dad Mark. The girls hinted that their formula for success included: "Not doing anything unless everybody in the family likes it"
In 1959, the girls recorded with fellow Liberty artist Mike Clifford. Switching over to the Cattahoochee label in 1964, Patience and Prudence cut four sides; however these tunes never made it onto the charts. Other than appearing as guests on a Dick Clark special in 1978 the sisters had essentially retired. Collectors Choice Music released a compilation of their music in 2004, including previously unreleased material. In the liner notes, composer/lyricist Brian Gari commented: "They have led private lives in areas other than show business ... and they don't miss it one bit"
"A Platter for Grandma." The Washington Post, November 18, 1956.
"Patience, Prudence: Voices Into Big Hit," San Mateo Times, November 28, 1956.
"Father Mcintyre Was So Right," The Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 19, 1957.
"Babes Invade Playland," The Washington Post, September 1, 1957.
Collector's Choice Music, The Best of Patience and Prudence, EMI, 2004.
Since almost everything is on YouTube, it's not surprising that the girls' appearance on the Perry Como Show (singing their hit song) of 9-15-46 is also there. Just point your mouse at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YXPoqBiLt4