The DeZurik Sisters

Mary Jane (b. 1 February 1917, Royalton, Minnesota, USA, d. 3 September 1981) and Carolyn DeZurik (b. 1919, Royalton, Minnesota, USA) were both born on a dairy farm. With Carolyn’s guitar providing…
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Artist Biography

Mary Jane (b. 1 February 1917, Royalton, Minnesota, USA, d. 3 September 1981) and Carolyn DeZurik (b. 1919, Royalton, Minnesota, USA) were both born on a dairy farm. With Carolyn’s guitar providing their basic accompaniment, the DeZuriks first established themselves as popular performers on the WLS Chicago National Barn Dance, making their debut on 17 October 1936. They became renowned for their clever yodelling ability that included various types of speciality yodel not usually associated with most performers. They also possessed an ability to produce, in perfect harmony, birdlike sounds of whistles and trills as well as their normal vocals. WLS billed them as ‘trick yodellers’ and usually presented them on publicity handouts as ‘farm girls’, ‘milkmaids’ or ‘hayloft lovelies’. This ‘clucking’ style of harmony produced well-received melodious impersonations of chickens and led them to be known as the Cackle Sisters. In 1941, they played on the Midwestern Hayride until, in 1944, the Ralston-Purina Company reckoned that the ‘chicken’ imitations should sell their farm foods products and promptly sponsored the sisters. In 1945, they were very popular regulars on that company’s segment on the Grand Ole Opry and so became the first female performers to establish themselves on both that show and the Barn Dance. For some time they commuted between Chicago and Nashville appearing as the DeZurik Sisters on WLS and as the Cackle Sisters on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1940, both sisters married fellow WLS artists, Mary Jane becoming Mrs. Augie Klein and her sister Mrs. Rusty Gill.

In 1947, Mary Jane retired to look after her family and was replaced by her younger sister Lorraine. Reports indicate that the new duo produced even more startling effects involving ‘triple-tongue and machine gun yodels’. Over the years, a fourth sister, Eva (who married Ray Klein), sometimes appeared should any of her siblings be indisposed. In 1948, the act returned to WLS, where they performed until the early 50s. Carolyn and Rusty Gill later performed as a duo in Dayton and Chicago where they had their own television show It’s Polka Time. Mary Jane died in 1981. Lorraine relocated to Washington state. During their years performing they seemingly only ever recorded three 78s but recordings of their act have surfaced on some transcription recordings surviving from the Checkerboard Square programme.