Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the hugely successful vocal trio the McGuire Sisters, has died at the age of 89. The group had No.1 hits in the US with “Sincerely” in 1955 and “Sugartime” in 1958 and numerous other signature releases on Coral Records throughout the decade. McGuire died on Tuesday (December 29) in Las Vegas; no cause of death was given.
The group performed for no fewer than five presidents, and for Queen Elizabeth II in Great Britain. She and sisters Christine and Dorothy, who hailed from Middletown, Ohio, began singing together at their tender ages during World War II. They got their break when they appeared on Kate Smith’s radio show and then replaced the Chordettes on the Arthur Godfrey and his Friends talent show in 1953.
In 1954, the McGuire Sisters made their first US chart appearance credited after Johnny Desmond and Eileen Barton on the Coral release “Pine Tree, Pine Over Me.” Their first hit solely in their own name, the same year, was the Top 10 entry “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight,” and that year brought another popular song in “Muskrat Ramble.”
In 1955, the sisters had what would become perhaps their best-known and biggest success with the crossover pop chart version of “Sincerely,” written by DJ Alan Freed and Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows. The trio’s version topped the US pop chart for ten weeks.
Other big songs included 1955’s “Something’s Gotta Give,” from the movie Daddy Long Legs starring Fred Astaire; and such singles as “He,” “Picnic” and “Sugartime,” which had four weeks at No.1 in February and March of 1958. After many further releases, Phyllis went solo in 1964 and signed to Reprise, achieving one Hot 100 entry that year with “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You.”
A later reunion of the trio led to further performances from 1985, and they made their last appearance on stage together in the mid-2000s. Phyllis also had a notable relationship with the Chicago mobster Sam Giancana, and she was portrayed by Mary Louise-Parker in 1995’s HBO film Sugartime.