The Lennon Sisters – America’s Sweethearts Of Song – Raise The Roof At Benefit Concert

Friday, 28 Jun 2013, 9:12:00 AM

Beverly Cohn

The Lennon Sisters with their first, second, and third cousins in a rousing rendition of “The Family Tree.”
Photo by Maria Younghans
The Lennon Sisters with their first, second, and third cousins in a rousing rendition of “The Family Tree.”

Who among us of a certain age doesn’t remember crowding

around our Motorola black-and-white TV sets with 8 1/2- to 19 1/2-inch screens

every Saturday night to watch “The Lawrence Welk Show” featuring the adorable,

squeaky-clean Lennon Sisters who entertained audiences on his show for 13

years, beginning in 1965?

Born and raised in Venice, California into a strict

Catholic family that eventually numbered 11 children, the singing quartet,

consisting of Dianne (DeeDee), Peggy, Kathy, and Janet, ranging in ages from

nine to 16, captured the hearts of the “Geritol” audience, singing mostly

faith-based or spiritual songs with their sweet, four-part harmony.

Still singing after all these years, the sisters

headlined the Third Annual Lennon Family Benefit Concert last Friday and

Saturday evenings held at the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club where dozens of

incredibly talented members of the sprawling Lennon family, including the

wonderful local Venice Band, joined together for a rousing, four-hour

concert. 

What is particularly awesome is the phenomenon of that

special musical gene being passed down from generation to generation beginning

perhaps in the 1940s and 50s with the Lennon Brothers who sang with Paul

Whiteman. 

That special sound of the “Modernaires” and other swing

vocal groups of that era, is quite apparent in the current Lennon family groups

of performers such as “The Lennon Bros. & Gail Lennon” and “The Lennon

Cathcart Trio.” 

As one of the Lennons put it, “Our family proliferated

like rabbits and at last count there were approximately 350-400 of us,” which

includes aunts, uncles, and 270 cousins.

Many enchanting stories were shared throughout the

evening with one particularly poignant story, and one that might illustrate

“nature over nurture,” told by Venice lead singer Kipp, younger brother of the

Lennon Sisters. 

When he was a young man, he gave up a baby son for

adoption but 24 years later he decided to find him. 

His name is Charlie Vaughn and although raised by

adoptive parents, when Kipp reconnected with him, Charlie was singing,

composing, and playing the guitar. 

It seems that Lennon musical gene can’t be crushed and

together they performed a tender song about retirement, “I’m Sorry Mr. Jones.”

For this annual fundraiser concert benefiting Dr. Susan

Love Research, B.R.A.I.N., My Stuff Bags, and the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s

Club, 31 Lennon family members, many of whom live and perform in Branson,

Missouri at the Welk Resort Theatre, gathered together with cousins and uncles

from Ojai and Venice and kicked off the evening with a rendition of a rousing

gospel number by The Byrds “There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonight.”  

The now Lennon Sisters trio – Kathy, Janet, and Mimi

(Diane retired but did join in throughout the evening) – sang a nostalgic set

of standards including “When I Fall in Love,” “It Must Have Been Moonglow,” “Autumn

Leaves,” and “You Go To My Head.”  

Other memorable musical moments included The Lennon

Cathcart Trio’s beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan’s classic “Blowin’ in the

Wind,” Uncle Tom’s amusing song about beer, his daughter Laurie Beth’s lilting

flute solo accompaniment to the Lennon Bros. & Gail Lennon’s “Sky Lark,”

Peggy Lennon’s tribute to World War II “My Buddy,” as well as songs by Tom’s

son Ted and of course, fabulous selections from Venice, including “Right Where

We Left Off,” a sweet ballad honoring family ties. 

The enthusiastic audience, packed with family, friends,

and long-time fans, cheered wildly after each number, with the evening

culminating in a tender “The Family Tree” sung by the 31 first, second, and

third Lennon cousins. 

May the branches of this family tree continue to grow,

for such an exceptionally talented clan is truly a musical gift to us all.

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