The group organized in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1946. The original members of the group were Janet Ertel, Carol Buschmann (her sister-in-law), Dorothy Schwartz, and Jinny Osborn (or Lockard) (April 25, 1928 – May 19, 2003). In 1952, Lynn Evans replaced Schwartz, and in 1953, Margie Needham replaced Osborn (who was having a baby), though Osborn later returned to the group. Nancy Overton also was a member of the group at a later time. Originally they sang folk music in the style of The Weavers, but eventually changed to a harmonizing style of the type known as barbershop harmony or close harmony. Part of this change seems to be influenced by Osborn's father.Jinny Osborn was born in Seattle, Washington. She was born Virginia Cole
, the daughter of O. H. "King" Cole, who was president of the Barbershop Harmony Society (then known as SPEBSQSA
), and Katherine Flack.After performing locally in Sheboygan, they won on Arthur Godfrey's radio program Talent Scouts
in 1949. They held feature status on Godfrey's daily program, and then recorded for Columbia Records.In 1953, Godfrey's music director and orchestra leader, Archie Bleyer, founded Cadence Records. He signed a number of Godfrey regulars and former regulars, including the Chordettes, who had a number of hit records for Cadence.Their biggest hit was "Mr. Sandman" in 1954. Archie Bleyer himself is on that record along with the group, Bleyer stripping the sound down the better not to clutter the girls' voices. They also hit No. 2 with 1958's "Lollipop" and also charted with a vocal version of the themes from Disney's Zorro
(U.S. #17) (1959) and the film Never on Sunday
(U.S. #13) (1961). Other hits for the girls included "Eddie My Love" (U.S. #14), "Born to Be With You" (U.S. #5), "Lay Down Your Arms" in 1956, and "Just Between You and Me" (U.S. #8) in 1957. Their cover of "The White Rose Of Athens" hit the Australian Top 15 in May, 1962. The US single "In The Deep Blue Sea" was a one-week Music Vendor entry four months later (#128).Janet Ertel married Bleyer in 1954. Her daughter Jackie married another Cadence recording star, Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers.The Chordettes appeared on American Bandstand
on August 5, 1957, the first episode of that show to be broadcast nationally on the ABC Television Network.In 1961, Jinny Osborn left the group, and they were unable to find a replacement with whom they were happy, leading to a breakup.
The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.The longest living member of the Chordettes who has sung on all the Chordettes' recordings, both a cappella and Cadence recordings, is Carol Buschmann. Lynn Evans Mand sang on all the Chordettes' Cadence Recordings. In 2004, Mand appeared on a PBS television special Magic Moments: The Best of 50s Pop
, with other 1950s pop icons, singing "Lollipop." Buschmann, Mand and Margie Needham Latzko, are the surviving singers who recorded "Mr. Sandman". Janet Ertel Bleyer, the other singer on that recording, died in 1988.During Super Bowl XLV, CarMax unveiled a new commercial featuring the Chordettes' 1955 song "Lonely Lips". A 2012 Kia Optima car commercial premiered during Super Bowl XLVI featuring the Chordette's recording of "Mister Sandman."Their song "Lollipop" was featured in the game Lollipop Chainsaw in 2012.
Janet Ertel Bleyer died in 1988. Jinny Osborn (later known as Jinny Janis) died in 2003. On April 5, 2009, Nancy Overton died after a long battle with esophageal cancer. Dorothy Schwartz and Carol Buschmann are the only living original members of the group.