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Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Ross Sisters

Via The Health Blog
There's a chain email making its way across the web that incorrectly attributes a video of three singing contortionists from the 1940s to The Andrews Sisters. When I watched the video, I sadly shook my head. As the author of a retro blog, few things sadden me more than people who are ignorant about their retro pop culture history, so I thought I would take a moment to enlighten the masses. 

The video is actually of The Ross Sisters, a trio of ladies whose stage names were Aggie Ross, Elmira Ross, and Maggie Ross (their real names were Veda Victoria, Dixie Jewel, and Betsy Ann Ross.) Their vocals were very much like that of The Andrews Sisters, but these ladies had additional talents in acrobats and contortionism. According to the Internet Movie Database, they had a very short lived career in the movies, only appearing in one film called Broadway Rhythm in 1944. After that, they appeared on stage in a London play called Piccadilly Hayride

All three married and faded from the spotlight, except for Betsy Ann (Aggie), who married a dancer, Robert "Bunny" Hightower, and appeared with him on The Ed Sullivan Show several times. Bunny, unfortunately, suffered from alcoholism and schizophrenia and beat her within an inch of her life. Dixie Jewel (Elmira) passed away at the young age of 33 in 1963; the cause of death I could not track down.

It's baffling that the ladies didn't enjoy more popular commercial success -- the remarkable clip below of them performing Solid Potato Salad from their Broadway Rhythm appearance blew my mind. Holy smokes, you have to not only be flexible to do this kind of stuff, but incredibly strong, too. And by the way, this is not to detract from The Andrews Sisters, who were phenomenal singers and performers. The Ross Sisters just had a different kind of talent:

I wasn't so much bothered by the fact that people may not know who The Ross Sisters were; after all, they never became a household name. It was the fact that some folks cannot recognize The Andrews Sisters. Hopefully this clears things up any confusion. If anyone sends you the chain email, you know where to send them to!


  1. OMG! That is amazing. I don't get how they weren't snapped up and made into huge stars. Their unison in uncanny. Thanks for sharing this. I feel compelled to share it on my blog too!

  2. Ruth - they are indeed amazing but just watching them made my sides hurt! Thanks for sharing; I will check out your blog!

  3. An object lesson in how to be sexy without being sleazy; I really enjoyed watching this.

  4. I read somewhere that Dixie Jewel died from lung cancer.

  5. I fail to understand how Hollywood found a place for Esther Williams and not these ladies. God, they look so young!

  6. HOW IN THE WORLD did I miss this awesome post!! Pam, I know I'm late to the game here, but thanks so much for posting this--I've always been a huge fan of the old MGM musicals from the '40s, and I remember reading about these sisters many years ago in a book on MGN's history, it sure was great to see 'em in action!

    Hmm...there's just something about farmgirls in pretzel-like poses that get to me, I dunno :)

  7. Super awesome. I took a stab at the lyrics a while back http://jana-treeclimber.blogspot.com/2010/04/solid-potato-salad-ross-sisters-1944.html - if anyone can help me correct them, I'd be much obliged.

  8. I'm just wondering how their backs did as they aged. Is contortionism a good thing or a bad thing for life? Just wondering. Sad about that one sister. How did the others do I wonder?

  9. They would have been snapped up by an agent today in a min...

  10. Dixie Jewell Ross died from an overdose of barbiturates.

  11. Good Grief! I'd never heard of this act before and was amazed at the gal leaning down between the two planks to pick up an apple with her mouth. Looked impossible! I looked them up in Wikipedia and they were young for this performance. If this is the performance from Broadway Rythm 1944 then they were 18, 17, & 15. I sure hope they didn't damage their backs doing these performances.


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