The Chenille Sisters - Cheryl Dawdy, Connie Huber, and Grace Morand - are a contemporary Ann Arbor folk trio that began singing together at Ann Arbor's Old Town Tavern in 1985. Within a year, they made their first of several appearances on Garrison Keillor’s popular “A Prairie Home Companion” radio program. They would write and tour constantly through the early 2000s, appear in numerous regional and national venues, and record 12 records.
Singer Grace Morand and guitarist and songwriter Connie Huber were performing in the band “Cookin’” at Mr. Flood's Party when they invited singer-songwriter Cheryl Dawdy - already a fan of the duo - to join them on stage to help deliver a convincing rendition of Aretha Franklin’s song, “Respect.” Their first show as the Chenille Sisters was held on March 17, 1985. Enthusiastic audience response led to a regular happy hour slot at the Old Town playing to crowds that were standing room only.
The group’s name - a whimsical spinoff of famed girl groups like The Chiffons - was a nod to the modest fabric and the type of humor that would become a hallmark of their performances. From the get-go, the Chenille Sisters were known for their humorous material and all-out delivery, with jokes, stories, and wacky wardrobes that included vintage clothes and costume jewelry. The latter were often memorable -- for example, Grace wore a brassiere outside of her clothing long before another local talent, Madonna, did -- and their antics lent an unpredictable flair that audiences loved.
A Prairie Home Companion
On the heels of their Old Town success, David Siglin, manager of Ann Arbor's notable folk music venue, the Ark, invited the group to open for the Persuasions. And in 1986, Siglin invited them to appear at the venue’s signature fundraiser, the popular Ann Arbor Folk Festival.
Also in 1986, and only a year into their local celebrity, Connie Huber sent a tape to Garrison Keillor’s popular A Prairie Home Companion radio program and they were invited by Keillor to appear on the show. Costumed in zany prom dresses, they performed “[I Want To Be] Seduced,” a song that raised eyebrows of the show’s producers, but that also wound up inspiring enthusiastic letters of support from fans of the show. They were invited back for several more appearances.
In 1987, the group signed with Red House Records in St. Paul, MN, and additional opportunities opened up with various celebrities on national stages. In the 1990s, the Chenille Sisters would appear with Andy Williams, the Smothers Brothers, the Nylons, Marvin Hamlisch, Phyllis Diller, and the Boston Pops Orchestra. In 1996, they formed their own label, Cantoo Records.
Musical Style and Influences
The trio cites the Boswell Sisters, a 1920-30s harmonizing trio, as a key musical influence, but they wrote and interpreted in a variety of musical styles from folk, rock, pop, and ballads. The Chenilles' tight harmonies -- a throwback to the Andrews Sisters style of the 1940s swing era -- led to collaborations with the James Dapogny Chicago Band. In 1990, they appeared with the James Dapogny Chicago Band on PBS Television’s The Lonesome Pine Special
The group also wrote and arranged music expressly for children and created shows featuring humor and skits for children and parents. They won several Parents’ Choice Awards for their children’s records, and in 1997, their holiday television special, The Secret of the Box, won two Emmys.
The Chenille Sisters would tour across the country, performing in a variety of venues through 2004. In 2005, they celebrated their 20th anniversary with a concert at The Ark attended by their many fans and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. The Chenille Sisters continue to perform and can be found at TheChenilleSisters.com.
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