The DeZurik Sisters

The DeZurik Sisters (also known as The Cackle Sisters) were two of the first women to become stars on both the National Barn Dance and the Grand Ole Opry, largely a result of their original yodeling style.[1]


Born and raised on a farm in Royalton, Minnesota, Mary Jane (February 1, 1917 1981) and Carolyn Dezurik (December 24, 1918 March 16, 2009) were part of a family of seven. Their father Joe played fiddle, their sisters sang, and their brother Jerry played accordion and guitar. Inspired by their family and the sounds of the animals and birds around them, they developed an astonishing repertoire of high, haunting yodels and yips that soon had them winning talent contests all over central Minnesota. In 1936, they signed a contract to appear regularly on Chicago radio station WLS-AM's National Barn Dance, and were hired in 1937 to perform on Purina Mills' Checkerboard Time radio show, where they sang as The Cackle Sisters.[1]

In 1938, the sisters recorded six songs for Vocalion Records: "I Left Her Standing There" (Vocalion 4616-A), "Arizona Yodeler" (Vocalion 4616-B), "Sweet Hawaiian Chimes" (Vocalion 4704-A), "Guitar Blues" (Vocalion 4704-B), "Go To Sleep My Darling Baby" (Vocalion 4781-A) and "Birmingham Jail" (Vocalion 4781-B). Those six songs were the only tracks the duo would ever commit to shellac, although some recordings exist of their appearances on Checkerboard Time.[1]

Both sisters married musicians they had met at WLS. Carolyn accepting a proposal from Ralph "Rusty" Gill, a singer and guitar player, on September 1, 1940, and Mary Jane was saying yes to Augie Klein, an accordionist, before the month was out. In 1943, Gill and Klein were drafted into World War II and Mary Jane took what proved to be a short-lived retirement to look after her new family. Carolyn joined Sonja Henie's Ice Review for a year or so, afterwards returning to Minnesota for a series of appearances on radio station KSTP-AM. Mary Jane rejoined her sister in 1944, doing road dates with Purina and regular shows at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.[2]

Rusty was discharged from Army in 1946 and returned to WLS with his old band, The Prairie Ramblers. Mary Jane retired next year, so Carolyn recruited their sister Lorraine, and the new DeZurik Sisters returned to WLS in Chicago. By 1951, after a stint at Cincinnati's WLW-AM and WLW-TV, Lorraine had retired and Carolyn had joined the Ramblers as their new female vocalist, filling a decade-long vacancy created by the absence of trick yodeller Patsy Montana. Carolyn and Rusty moved back to Chicago, where they began appearing with the Ramblers on the daily variety show Chicago Parade, airing on WBBM-TV and WBKB-TV.

Lorraine lives in Washington state with her husband. Rusty lives in the Chicago area,[3] although Carolyn died in March 2009.[4]

Years after the height of their fame, Carolyn recalled that the DeZurik Sisters achieved their sound simply because she and Mary Jane "listened to the birds and tried to sing with the birds."[5]


  1. 1 2 3 "The DeZurik Sisters | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-11-08.
  2. Archived January 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "DeZurik Sisters". Retrieved 2013-11-08.
  4. "Carolyn A. Gill Obituary: View Carolyn Gill's Obituary by Chicago Suburban Daily Herald". 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2013-11-08.
  5. "The Cackle Sisters, Yodeling Queens". NPR. Retrieved 2013-11-08.
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