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Singing Sisters Found Fame After Attending College of Saint Mary

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

When three singing sisters took the stage to perform during an amateur talent contest in Wahoo in 1939, they began a journey that would take them from small-town Nebraska to radio fame in the big city of Chicago.

Marie and twins Inez and Irene Laudenschlager started singing as children growing up in Wahoo. They sang for various church and social functions. Marie often played the accompaniment.

All three sisters attended College of Saint Mary after high school graduation.

After winning the amateur talent competition at the Wahoo Theater, the trio signed to sing with Ronnie Fike and his orchestra. They performed around Nebraska, billed as the Laudenschlager Trio. The Kearney Hub called the sisters “a clever vocal trio” in an article published on Nov. 21, 1940, after singing at the annual Kearney Volunteer Fire Department ball.

In 1941, while Irene and Inez were still students at CSM, the trio auditioned for local radio station WOW, where they sang together as “Marie and the Twins” for a year, according to the Wahoo Independent.

They also performed with the “Red, White, and Blue Patriotic Review,” which traveled to various towns in Nebraska, selling United States War Bonds.

The sisters continued to appear together for local engagements until Marie went to work as a civilian at Fort Warren in Wyoming in the spring of 1944. Inez became a stenographer at an Omaha bank, and Irene took a job at a war plant.

But that summer, they decided to try to advance their singing careers. Over a long-distance phone call, the twins convinced Marie to travel with them to Chicago to continue performing. They auditioned for WBBM, which was owned by CBS, and earned a contract. From then on, they were known as the Bennett Sisters. They were featured on “Victory Matinee,” which aired on Saturdays from 2 to 2:30 p.m. and “The Jimmy Hilliard Orchestra” on Tuesdays from 11:05 to 11:30 p.m.

In addition to singing on local and national CBS radio shows, the sisters made singing commercials for products such as Bisquick, Hudson Motor Company, All-Purpose Rit dye, Durkee’s Oleomargarine, Holsum Bread, and Manor House coffee. They also appeared on several theater programs in Indiana and Chicago.

They also appeared on Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club with bandleader Eddie Ballantine.

“They were plenty good when they left Wahoo, but now they are outstanding in the radio world,” an article in the Jan. 1, 1948, Wahoo Newspaper said.

In April 1948, the Bennett Sisters recorded “Popcorn Polka” with Ballantine for Tower Records. The song was promoted via jukeboxes, popcorn vending machines, and other media. It also received promotion by the National Popcorn Manufacturers Association.

When Irene married her high school sweetheart, Emil “Sam” Docekal, that fall, Marie and Inez found a replacement named “Billie” and continued singing. They both married in 1950.

Marie died Sept. 24, 1997, in Phoenix, Ariz. She and her husband, James Welch, had two children. Inez passed away Sept. 23, 2006, after a battle with cancer. She and her husband, John Bosshart, had five children. Irene died Jan. 26, 2008, in Tullahoma, Tenn., after an extended battle with Parkinson’s disease. She and Sam had two children.

 

By Leeanna Ellis

 

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