‘A high standard, for music and the good life’: Local native of hit ’50s group the McGuire Sisters remembered

The sisters were born in Middletown and grew up in Miamisburg.

The eldest sister of the McGuire Sisters, the trio born in Middletown and raised in Miamisburg, with six Top 10 Billboard hits including No. 1 hits “Sincerely” and “Sugartime,” died just before New Year’s in Las Vegas.

Born Ruby Christine McGuire, the sister behind the iconic group’s matching attire, to Asa and Lillie McGuire on July 30, 1926, died on Dec. 28, 2018, at 92. McGuire’s family confirmed her death in a statement released on Friday, according to the New York Times, and no cause of death was given.

Phyllis McGuire, 87, the youngest of the trio, is the sole survivor of the McGuire Sisters, who were born in Middletown. Dorothy “Dottie” McGuire died in 2012 at 84.

The McGuire Sisters performed for five presidents — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — and Queen Elizabeth II. They were inducted into three halls of fame: the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1994, Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 and Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.

The sisters stopped performing in the late 1960s but made a comeback in 1985, including performing at casinos and clubs in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Their last televised performance was a 2004 PBS special, "Magic Moments: The Best of '50s Pop."

The sisters were close, said Pat Hayes, of Middletown, who organized the McGuire Sisters’ 1991 Middletown bicentennial performance at the Sorg Theater.

“I’m sure (Phyllis) is a very lonely lady,” Hayes said after hearing the news of Christine’s death. “They were really quite close as sisters, and I’m sure as entertainers.”

In their 1991 Middletown performance, the McGuire Sisters had a sold-out one-night, two-show performance, said Hayes, who organized the event with her husband, Norm.

“They put on a really big show,” she said.

The McGuire Sisters started out singing in church and after being discovered on local television, signed with Coral Records in 1952. Their first record, “Picking Sweethearts” was released in 1953. Their first Top 10 hit, “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight,” reached No. 7.

“They definitely set a standard, a high standard, for music and the good life,” said Hayes, who recalled the sisters as “very much down-to-earth” and consummate professionals. And as with most professionals, they had a few requests before they performed. One request was something they grew up with: Jug Burgers from The Jug on Central Avenue.

“They were just really fun,” Hayes said.

Ann Mort, a former Middletown school board and city council member, said that 1991 performance “was a major event” in Middletown.

“And every man of a certain age claimed to have dated one of the sisters,” she said.

Christine McGuire’s death is “certainly a major name being lost to the music world,” Mort said. “They did a lot for their home communities, and were always interesting and fun people as a group.”

The New York Times contributed to this story.

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