Colorradio.com - De Castro Sisters
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The De Castro sisters grew up in Cuba, though each was born in a different country - Margarita Dolores, known as Peggy, was born in the Dominican Republic, Cherie - the United States, and Babette - in Cuba. They were singing and dancing by the early 40's and used several different variations of names as performers, including The Americanitas, The Marvel Sisters, The Fernando De Castro Sisters, and finally they shortened it to their family name of the De Castro Sisters. Their act included comedy, both intended and unintended, singing, dancing and apparent acting on stage. They were also the voices that sang Zip A Dee Doo Dah in Disney's 1946 film Song Of The South. Did they speed up their voices, or was it really their natural sound? They appeared in the 1947 film Copacabana, and several others including The Helen Morgan Story. Their very first recordings as the De Castro Sisters were from 1952 on the Tico label and included "I Do" and Jumbalato" with Tito Puente.
While performing at the club Moulin Rouge in Hollywood, Fabor Robison happened to catch the De Castro Sisters show, and was looking for new talent on his well established country and western label called Abbott. He already found some success with early recordings by Johnny Horton, Mitchell Torok, Smiley Burnette and superstar Jim Reeves. He had just recently sold Reeves contract to RCA to free up some cash, and was now looking for the next big thing. Ironically, the same thing would happen to the De Castro Sisters after less than two years with with his label. Though certainly not country western, the De Castro sisters would provide a change of musical pace and Robison's fortunes for the Abbott label, which devoted their first four releases in the label's new 3000 numbering system, to the De Castro Sisters. The biggest hit on Abbott and their career was with Teach Me Tonight in 1954. Were they one hit wonders? Not really. Four out of seven of their Billboard pop hits were on the Abbott label. Their second biggest hit was their third release for Abbott called Boom Boom Boomerang which was a real catchy tune in it's own right. A total of ten issues for Abbott were recorded by the De Castro Sisters.
The De Castro Sisters had phenomenal success with their live shows, whether it was in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or any number of TV shows they appeared on. They had a sound, a presence and an entertaining program. They went on to other labels after Abbott. Most notably was the aforementioned RCA, also ABC, Capitol and a couple of smaller outfits. Unfortunately, they never were able to break into the top 70 with those discs. Peggy was the first of the sisters to leave the group, and was replaced by Olgita, from Mexico City. Peggy then formed her own mixed group of two men and one other woman besides herself. Babette later departed to have a baby, and Peggy returned to join Olgita and Cherie as the De Castro Sisters. Their recording career actually spanned about 10 years, from the early 50's to about 1962. We begin and end the De Castro Sisters audio and pictorial journey on the Abbott label, with music and label shots from 1954 through 1956. To the left is an advertisement for the De Castro Sisters performing in Astoria, Oregon. This would have been the summer of 1958, and they had a one week engagement at Amato's supper theatre. Amato's was at one time on 706 W. Main near the river. It was a very popular spot during the 40's and seemed to cater to the WW2 veterans. Many class acts graced the stage, but it appears the popularity of the joint decreased as time marched on.
Released in 1945 or maybe 1946, "Penicillin Makes You Willin" was backed by "Peru." A cool record from the sisters, and the earliest one in my collection. It was on the Enterprise label of Los Angeles, and one of at least two recorded for Enterprise. The other one I see recorded on Enterprise is "Maracas In Caracas."
Here is one of the sisters Tico label discs. From about 1952, "Cuban Nightingale" backed with "Tonight I Am In Heaven." Nice effort from the De Castro Sisters. It was also available on 78 RPM.
I can't date this one, but it was issued on the London 30000 series, and this copy was made in the USA. "We're Not Telling" and "Full Moon" is shown with the Rumbaleros. It also shows the Three DeCastro Sisters.
The De Castro Sisters first waxing for the Abbott label was almost a flop. Entering the charts in October of 1954, the plug side was scheduled to be "It's Love." Notice the 3001a marking on left side of the label. Apparently, none of the DJ's were getting too excited about it until legendary Cleveland R+B DJ Bill Randle flipped the platter over. Much to the delight of record buyers everywhere, "Teach Me Tonight" jumped onto radio station Playlist's and charts immediately. Almost overnight, the De Castro sisters were in demand. A proverbial week later, no less than four cover versions came out and charted.
Here is the 45 RPM version. Both formats sold well, as Teach Me Tonight rose to the number two position, and stayed on the charts for 20 weeks! The song was really quite forward for the pop market at the time. Sure, there were more raucous romps in the R+B world, but this was suggestive for the pop market in 1954. The Skip Martin orchestra was used on this and all the Abbott label records for the De Castro Sisters. Notice that this may have been an early 45 issue, as the previous owner tagged the "It's Love" side. That same side is a great up tempo effort with a hot sound. Not to mention it shows as the "a" side.
The second release for Abbott by the De Castro Sisters did not have quite the reception. Based on the time period and the previous success, both 45's and 78's were pressed up. "I'm Bewildered" was plugged for radio station play, and in fact showed up on a later Abbott single."To Say You're Mine" was another smokin' orchestra workout, and it is well worth hearing. It was co-written by Lanny Shore, who was part of the Grover-Shore Trio that played Las Vegas from the early 1950's through the early 1960's. The arrangement was envisioned as a slow ballad, but ended up quite the opposite.
The 45 RPM had the same info as the 78. Using the "A" side ballad and up tempo flip, it was the same combination as their first Abbott record, but it just didn't catch on. Notice the song writing teams were different on the two sides, but the same A/B as 3001.
Many people remember this next release, almost as much as Teach Me Tonight. "Boom Boom Boomerang" was placed on the plug side and was a fast, very catchy melody. The De Castro Sisters enlisted the help of Thurl Ravenscroft. He had groups of his own including the Sportsmen Quartet and the Melo Men. Do you remember the old Ajax Cleanser commercials and that deep bass voice? How about Tony The Tiger? That was Thurl Ravenscroft.
Here is the 45 on that yellow-golden Abbott label. It peaked at number 17, but lasted only four weeks on the pop charts in May of 1955. The flip was "Let Your Love Walk In", a mid tempo, pleasing, and complimentary effort.
Abbott did issue promotional copies of their records. Above is such a release for "If I Ever Fall In Love." It is a typical love song, done in a De Castro Sisters slow ballad approach. More interesting, is the flip, "Cuckoo In The Clock." It's a novelty that is a fun listen. There was no national chart action for this 1955 recording. Had a DJ flipped this one, do you think it might have caught on? Hindsight tells me it just might have made a run up the charts. Notice the change in address on the label from Hollywood to a PO Box in Malibu California.
Here is the stock copy of Abbott 3004. A fairly easy record to find, it was also pressed on a 78. The information on the label remains the same as the promotional copy.
This is probably the toughest record on the Abbott label for me to find - that I have found. "The Wedding Song" apparently did not sell well, or a lot more copies would have shown up. On The flip, they took the song from their second release "I'm Bewildered" and used it to complete the disc. Released in 1955.
Another Abbott promotional record, "Too Late Now" was another case of apparent DJ "Flip-Itis." "Too Late Now" is a slow ballad labeled as the "B" side and was plugged for airplay. The "A" side, "Give Me Time" is also a ballad. This was a departure of the ballad and up tempo combination that had been used on most of the previous records. Released in early December, 1955.
Here is the stock 45 RPM copy. Could it be that they felt ballads is what would make the hits, and by putting one on both sides, it wouldn't matter what side the DJ plays?
The De Castro Sisters' last chart entry for Abbott, "Snowbound For Christmas" was just a blip on the Billboard list at year end of 1955. Issued just a couple weeks after their last record, it was just in time to actually miss Christmas day. It spent only one week on the charts, and by then, the New Year's department store sales were in full swing! Bad timing for sure, as this is a real quality Christmas song with a good story and lyrics. "Christmas Is A Comin"shows up on the flip side and was also actually recorded by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole.
Now this is as close to straight ahead rock and roll that the De Castro Sisters would do for Abbott. Both sides are fast danceable songs that feature distinctive guitar riffs from Tony Rizzi, and a full out swingin' orchestra. "Rockin' And Rollin' In Hawaii" was the plug side. Even in 1956, there was tourist activity in Hawaii, just nothing like it is now. It is certainly an intriguing title for a song, and is a good one. "Cry Baby Blues" is another rocker, this time with a hint of the blues. A full-on orchestra led by Skip Martin kicks this one into overdrive. The promo copy is shown.
Here's the stock copy. This may have been just a little too wild for the diehard De Castro Sisters fans. With all the lovely ballads that they previously recorded, this might have blown out a hearing aid of their most stalwart audience members. Worse yet, if they flipped the record over, the other one probably blew.
The last record for Abbott was another interesting song, "Cowboys Don't Cry." The subject matter and song lent itself a bit more to country western music, It was complete with the horse effects and the slow illusion of riding the range. On the flip was "No One To Blame But You", another typical ballad for the De Castro Sisters. This was released in 1956. Fabor Robison was now in the process of selling the De Castro Sisters contract to RCA.
The De Castro Sisters had just one LP issued on the Abbott label, pressed as number 5002. The Previous Record number 5001 belonged to the great Jim Reeves. The sisters have 12 songs, which come from the first five Abbott releases, and the other two from other Abbott label sides. The album cover picture is interesting and shows the three faces of the De Castro Sisters, albeit one that is upside down. The song list is only on the front of the LP. The liner notes on the back are minimal,though touting them as a very "visual" act. There is also another picture on the back. This LP was probably close to the last thing that Robison did for the De Castro Sisters on his label before selling their contract to RCA.
Here are the record labels for the Abbott LP. Very straightforward is appearance.
: Babette died of cancer in 1991. Olgita passed away in 2000, and Peggy in 2004. As a side note, Thurl Ravenscroft also is gone, passing in 2003.
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