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The Greene sisters

The Greene Sisters

​The Singing Sisters

In the late 1930s and 40s close harmony singing groups were all the rage. One such group were The Greene Sisters from the East End of London. Discovered by bandleader Sidney Phillips, they were probably most well known as performers on the popular radio series 'Hi Gang!', broadcast “from the heart of London” each week between May 1940 until 1949 to a home and forces audience.

Sally Bevan, who has recently catalogued the archives of these singing sisters, tells more.

The Greene Sisters, stage names Judy, Gertie and Jeanette, were three of five children born to Rebecca Lazarus and Jacob Greenbaum in the east end of London; Gillian (1912-2000), Marcus (1914-1983), Janetta (1921-2007), Juliet (1922-2008) and Sylvia (1928-2009).

Their career was certainly a family affair.  They were supported by their younger sister Sylvia (who at the age of twelve stood in for Judy and then Jeanette in ‘Hi Gang!’ when they had tonsillitis) and by their brother Marcus, who was known to do their accounts.

Their father Jack worked in the leather trade and was hugely encouraging of his daughters’ singing career over the years. Their mother Rebecca was the daughter of Jacob Lazarus, a founding member of the staunchly orthodox Machzikei Hadath Synagogue in Spitalfields.

The trio were discovered by Sidney Phillips, bandleader and arranger in the late 1930's, who according to a letter from Jeanette (reference: LMA/4670/A/003) “thought our natural gift for singing together in harmony, combined with the unusual blend in our voices, made us the best vocal group he had ever heard, or that had ever been produced in this country”.

Their first appearance was in 1940 with the American bandleader Jack Harris, but they spent much of their early years touring Britain appearing on stage in Bradford, Liverpool, Aberdeen and Dundee to name but a few, and on the London Stage including at the Finsbury Park Empire and the London Coliseum. They performed in fundraising concerts in 1941 in aid of the General Jewish Hospital (Shaare Zedek) Jerusalem and in aid of 10th London and 33rd Middlesex Battalions, Home-guard Welfare Fund as well as countless appearances at Army, Navy and Royal Air Force camps entertaining the troops.

Sylvia Green music

​Sylvia Greene's music

​The Greene Sisters were a hard working trio moving from live stage performances to radio and latterly television broadcasts, but they were probably most well known as performers on the popular radio series 'Hi Gang!' which featured Ben Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels, the Jewish Hollywood couple. Along with Vic Oliver, the well-known entertainer, they broadcast “from the heart of London” each week between May 1940 until 1949 to a home and forces audience.

Sadly the trio never made it in America as their father prevented them crossing the Atlantic to perform on Bing Crosby's wartime show. However, the Greene Sisters continued performing and in 1954 appeared on 'Showcase' where Benny Hill introduced artists and acts new to television.

Sylvia Greene was a gifted composer and wrote and arranged music for her sisters as well as occasionally performing with them or on her own.  She also wrote a musical play 'A Great Guy' which was never performed, but was published and copies of the play and the music also written by Sylvia survive in the collection.

The family moved to north west London in the 1940's to a home named 'The Harmonies' and although none of the children married they remained close.

The collection was gifted to London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) in 2014 and mainly consists of material relating to the professional life of The Greene Sisters: correspondence concerning their working life on topics such as organising concerts and issues with their agents Foster's, copies of their wartime contracts, as well as examples of publicity material particularly play bills and programmes. There are copies of radio broadcasts including some from the series 'Hi Gang' recorded from 1951-2. Also included are both professional photographs and family photographs of The Greene Sisters, Jeanette, Gertie and Judy, as well as their brother Marcus and youngest sister Sylvia, and their parents Jack and Rebecca.

Find out more

The collection is now available for public access and can be found on LMA’s online catalogue  by searching reference LMA/4670.

LMA Catalogue Explore

You can also discover more about London life through the LMA collections on our society and social life pages.

Published:
23 July 2015
Last Modified:
27 September 2018

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