American Idols of the Nineteenth Century
April 23, 2004 3:33 AM   Subscribe

"Your talent is so great that you can expect fruit and vegetables to be thrown at every performance." Long before William Hung haunted the American music scene, there were The Cherry Sisters, a Vaudeville act that people loved to hate. A review that read, in part, "The mouths opened like caverns, and sounds like the wailing of damned souls issued therefrom," so offended the sisters that they launched a lawsuit which resulted in an historic ruling regarding fair comment. Oscar Hammestein II proclaimed them "the worst act in the history of light entertainment." Alas, no recordings exist.
posted by Joey Michaels (12 comments total)
"If some indefinable instinct of modesty could not have warned them that they were acting the part of monkeys, it does seem like the overshoes thrown at them would convey the idea."

Hehhehe-he ... I'm dyin' here ...
posted by RavinDave at 3:39 AM on April 23, 2004

The original punks!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:53 AM on April 23, 2004

BTW, excellent post, thanks Joey Michaels! Fascinating stuff.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:54 AM on April 23, 2004

Excellent post.
posted by Prospero at 6:26 AM on April 23, 2004

You mean in those days, when an artist was really bad, people didn't like them?

/scratches head, shrugs, puts on Shaggs CD
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:42 AM on April 23, 2004

The Cherry Sisters we have to take on faith, the Shaggs we have some proof, but William Hung cannot hold a candle to the sublime weirdness that is Wild Man Fischer
posted by jonmc at 7:27 AM on April 23, 2004

Alas, no recordings exist.

Well, now, let's not be so dogmatic. From the first link:
Sadly (but understandably), the Cherrys were never invited to make commercial recordings; however, Jessie cut a demo disc of her show-stopping "Fair Columbia." A few years after her death, a brief item appeared in an Iowa paper noting that the surviving sibs were trying to buy the disc from its owner so they could hear their dear, dead sister's voice. Problem was, they couldn't afford the asking price of $100. (The record's eventual disposition is unknown; it's probably in an attic somewhere, alongside the missing reels of von Stroheim's Greed.)
So maybe it will turn up (and sell millions).

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 7:48 AM on April 23, 2004

And then there's Florence Foster Jenkins. Good Wikipedia article outlines the career of this woman "who became famous for her complete lack of singing ability." Sound samples on both links.
posted by beagle at 9:02 AM on April 23, 2004

I wonder if they sounded like (::reverent pause::), Mrs. Miller.
posted by jonmc at 9:04 AM on April 23, 2004

Ah, Florence Foster Jenkins! Alas, Mrs. Miller! There likes shall never be seen again. Two of the all time greats - thanks for adding those links!
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:43 AM on April 23, 2004

I, of course, meant "Their likes." I would blame dyslexia, but the truth is I was lazy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:45 AM on April 23, 2004

Great stuff, thanks!
posted by vacapinta at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2004

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