Era in Middletown history ends after last of McGuire Sisters dies in Las Vegas

The famous McGuire sisters of Middletown. JOURNAL-NEWS ARCHIVES

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The famous McGuire sisters of Middletown. JOURNAL-NEWS ARCHIVES

An era in Middletown ended after the last of the McGuire Sisters died last week in her Las Vegas home.

Phyllis McGuire, lead singer and younger sister of Dorothy and Christine McGuire, the trio who made up the McGuire Sisters who topped the charts with several hits in the 1950s, died Dec. 29. She was 89.

Dorothy McGuire died in 2012, and Christine McGuire died in 2018.

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“That piece of Middletown history is no longer active,” said Pat Hayes, 86, of Middletown. “That’s sad.”

The sisters were born and raised in Middletown. Their father, Asa, worked in the East Works Open Heath at Armco. Their mother, Lillie, was a preacher at First Church of God in Miamisburg, so the sisters frequently performed there.

Eventually, after word spread about their singing ability, Karl and Inez Taylor, who ran a talent agency in Dayton, scouted them at the small church.

The Taylors were so impressed they approached Lillie McGuire about signing her daughters to a performance contract. She was hesitant at first, but then relented. The girls were purchased elaborate show costumes, and they performed occasionally with the Karl Taylor Orchestra at the Hotel Van Cleve in downtown Dayton.

That was the modest beginning of one of the greatest all-female singing groups to hit the stage.

The McGuire Sisters produced six Top 10 Billboard hits, including No. 1 hits “Sincerely” and “Sugartime.” They 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.”

Phyllis McGuire, who called herself “the one in the middle,” continued her singing career, headlining in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas.

The sisters returned to Middletown in 1991 in honor of the city’s bicentennial celebration. Because of ticket demand, they gave two performances in one night at the Sorg Opera House. They performed their Las Vegas show complete with costuming, orchestra and a pre-concert comedy act.

Pat and Norm Hayes chaired the entertainment portion of the bicentennial. Pat said she and Phyllis started in contact for several years and she was interested in news events in the city.

While the sisters stayed in Middletown they ate at The Jug on Central Avenue and visited with classmates, Hayes said.

“They were hometown people, at least when they were here,” she said. “They never lost their roots. Just ordinary people.”

The sisters roomed at the Manchester Inn, the downtown hotel that has since closed and gave a press conference in the City Building, just a block away. Ann Mort, publicity chair of the bicentennial, said the committee provided a limousine for the sisters so they could ride from the Manchester to the City Building.

“We poured it on,” Mort said. “And they did it up good for their hometown.”

Mort laughed when she recalled the number of older men in Middletown who claimed to have dated one or more of the McGuire sisters when they lived in Middletown.

“They were bigger than life,” Mort said. “They brought positive national attention to Middletown, the same way Jerry Lucas did. Everybody knew their name. They put a spark in Middletown.”

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The McGuire Sisters returned to their hometown in 1991 when Middletown celebrated its bicentennial. They performed at the Sorg Opera House. Phyllis, the last of the surviving sisters, died Dec. 31 in Las Vegas. She was 89. JOURNAL-NEWS ARCHIVES

The McGuire Sisters returned to their hometown in 1991 when Middletown celebrated its bicentennial. They performed at the Sorg Opera House. Phyllis, the last of the surviving sisters, died Dec. 31 in Las Vegas. She was 89. JOURNAL-NEWS ARCHIVES

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The McGuire Sisters returned to their hometown in 1991 when Middletown celebrated its bicentennial. They performed at the Sorg Opera House. Phyllis, the last of the surviving sisters, died Dec. 31 in Las Vegas. She was 89. JOURNAL-NEWS ARCHIVES

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